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Conflict of Interest Committee

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					                   Committee to Examine Conflict of Interest
                           Minutes April 22, 2004

Present:
Christina McKillop
Betty Hall
Bob Parodi
Jim Murphy

Absent:
David O’Sullivan


Christina McKillop called the meeting to order at 6:40pm.

Christina McKillop began by introducing herself, followed by Jim Murphy, Bob Parodi,
and Betty Hall.

Bob Parodi suggested, based on the Melendy Pond Committee which was the last
committee appointed by Town Meeting, that we have a chair, a vice-chair, and a
secretary. He also observed that as a public meeting, we should keep minutes and
announce our meetings, etc.

Betty Hall Agreed. She also added every committee member should have a copy of, and
have read, the Right to Know law. Also, the law changes every few years, so folks need
to stay on top of it. It’s being studied right now, regarding electronic communications,
for example.

Christina McKillop moved Jim Murphy be appointed as secretary, Betty Hall second.
Passed 4-0.

Bob Parodi suggested that appropriate use of e-mail be included as a topic. There was a
discussion about the proper use of e-mail and electronic commications. He suggests that
this is a topic that should be discussed in the context of this committee.

Christina McKillop brought the discussion back to Goals and Purposes of the Committee
and suggested we can take our lead from the charter. Bob mentioned that the committee
has wide latitude to address issues that if feels would be appropriate to ethics and conduct
in general, not specifically COI.

Jim Murphy passed out the materials he has collected, which included the charter of the
committee. This includes “…the Committee shall furnish a report by December 31, 2004
to the Board of Selectmen…”




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Bob Parodi expressed his desire to make sure the “reasonable summary” of the
committee, as called for in the charter, is delivered to the Selectmen by the end of
October. This will allow the Board of Selectmen to include it in the Annual Report,
which has a submission deadline of early February. However, the actual deliverable of
the full report would likely be too large to include in the report. This report would be
made available at Town Hall and posted on the Town website for public access.

Betty Hall seems to think that December 1st would be a better date.

Christina McKillop suggests we shoot for October 31st, and evaluate if that is reasonable
as we go forward. There was informal agreement on this, but no vote taken.

Bob Parodi suggested we add RSA91-A to the folder of information Jim Murphy
provided. He also suggested that we add RSA 95:1a and 673:13. Since Tab “M” (Road
Agent Policy) was adopted in March by the Selectmen, we should add the minutes of that
meeting as well. Bob further suggested that both Hudson and Merrimack seem to have
active Codes of Conduct and Ethics committees, and any information we can get from
them would be useful.

ACTION ITEM: Jim Murphy agreed to take the action of collecting up the
information listed above by Bob.

Bob Parodi commended Jim on collecting the information.

Betty Hall observed that when she introduced an ethics bill in the legislature in the
1970’s, it didn’t get a good reception then, but she did explore it back in that era.

A brief discussion took place regarding how much time and effort should be put into this
committee. Bob Parodi recommended erring on the side of doing too much, instead of
too little.

Betty Hall said she wouldn’t have gotten involved if this was going to be cursory.

Jim Murphy observed that it would be easier to slow down later if we’re doing too much,
but hard to make up for lost time if we get going too slowly. A proposal of meeting twice
a month was made.

Jim Murphy pointed out that Planning Board meets on Thursday, first and third, so he
suggested 2 nd and 4th. This would make the next meeting May 13th. Since David
O’Sullivan was not present, but was expected soon, any further discussion of a next date
was deferred until later in the meeting when his input could be obtained.

Christina McKillop moved on to the “What’s Next” agenda item.

Betty Hall suggests we make the goals of the committee the topic for the following
meeting.

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Bob Parodi suggests that the minutes be e-mailed to the committee for advance review
and to Rena. Rena to maintain a file and Jim to send the minutes to Rena within the 6
day period required by RSA 91-A.

A brief discussion ensued about how minutes will be managed, and how meeting agendas
will be posted. It was agreed that no minutes would be posted electronically until after
they were officially approved by the committee at the next meeting.

Bob Parodi asked the question as to how far do you go, as a public official, in discussion
groups? (i.e. a Yahoo Group).

Betty Hall talked about similar issues she’s encountered on the Coop Board. She feels it
crosses from COI into Ethics. She cautioned against us going too far from our charge.

Bob Parodi felt this charge is primarily one of maintaining integrity, and that we should
be able to discuss this in this committee. He said, regarding the COI ordinance petitioned
last year, he was angry that Jim proposed it in the way he did. He indicated he just
wanted to get this on the table once and wouldn’t say it again.

Betty Hall recalled a famous guy, whose name escaped her, that said COI is the most
difficult area to legislate. As far as Betty is concerned, she thinks the most important
thing you can do with COI or ethics legislation, is to have someplace where someone can
get an opinion on potential CoI issues, before they act, or make a decision.

Christina McKillop mentioned that she hears a lot about growth in the town. We have
the opportunity to be proactive here, and not be reactive and waiting until we turn into a
Merrimack, where there’s an issue that could have been prevented with the proper
planning.

Jim Murphy suggests that the committee look at the town and its needs first, and then
determine what areas could be addressed, and how, be it education, legal assets, policies,
or an ordinance.

Bob Parodi mentioned, for example, that the Planning Board should not have used a
secret ballot to suggest whom to recommend for appointments this year. He said that’s
not a COI issue but it’s simply a wrong way of doing things and that’s under our purview.

Betty Hall said we can do a lot to remove COI by being open and public.

Bob Parodi pointed out that no one has recused themselves more in town in the past 5
years than he has. That is probably due to the nature of his profession, but he said his
method is - if it doesn’t smell right, walk away.

Jim Murphy pointed out that while a subjective “doesn’t smell right” test is part of the
solution, there are some clear criteria that can be used to help people refine their “sense
of that smell.” He cited direct financial interest as one example.

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Bob Parodi Agreed and said that should be mandatory, in anything.

Betty Hall observed that even that can get cloudy when you start involving family
members.

Bob Parodi said there are some “bright line conflicts,” which are basic and easy to
identify.

Christina McKillop said if you have a basic checklist of those conflicts, if you can’t
answer a clear yes or no to any items, get an answer before moving forward.

Bob Parodi pointed out that, when in doubt, you can do the safe thing and walk away.

Betty Hall said one of the concerns is with ethics legislation is if you have someone being
disqualified too often, it impedes them doing their job for which they were elected or
appointed. Maybe by shining the light on them, through public visibility, it will enable
the officials to do the jobs they are elected to do.

Jim Murphy Spoke about RSA95:1 as an example of a restrictive statue that had an
escape clause to do things even when under a conflict.

Bob Parodi brought up a (Town Attorney) Drescher letter from Dec 2000 or 2001 that
clarified RSA 95:1 with respect to the Road Agent. That was the genesis of the Road
Agent policy. He continued to say the Road Agent is a big issue we need to talk about.

ACTION ITEM: Bob Parodi took the action to ask the Board of Selectmen to
release that letter to this committee, as it is relevant to our efforts. This will be done
during the next BoS meeting on April 26 th.

Bob Parodi continued to say he thinks we have a good system with the Road Agent.
Could we improve it? Can we add visibility? Yes. If folks are uncomfortable, then that’s
an issue. Our Road Agent issue is unique compared to towns around us, in that other
towns have a DPW vs. a Road Agent.

Bob Parodi mentioned that he felt the town was getting a good deal relative to, Hollis for
example, on roadwork.

Jim Murphy suggested that his data from asking towns in the area, that we are on a
similar operating budget, not getting a great deal but a fair price.

Bob Parodi countered that if Jim removed capitalization costs in that comparison, he
wasn’t comparing equivalent things.
Betty Hall points out that any of these discussions and comparisons aren’t relevant.

Christina McKillop added this really isn’t our context to discuss these details.

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Bob Parodi did say that we should address the overall issue of visibility and public
confidence in the Road Agent. Jim agreed.

Betty Hall asked Jim if he could annotate the source and the date for the items he’s
collected.

ACTION ITEM: Jim Murphy said yes, he would identify the source and date for all
the items in the folder.

Betty Hall suggested it might be another interesting idea to see both the Coop and
Brookline School District policies with regard to these issues. She’s working with
several folks to review the education policies. She’s also looking at the State School
Board’s Associations policies.

ACTION ITEM: Betty Agreed to deliver copies of those polices to Jim for inclusion
in the binders.

Christina McKillop asked are we looking to “align” our recommendations with these
efforts?

Betty Hall said No; we should use them for reference.

Jim Murphy pointed out that looking across many of the ordinances and policies; we find
some common ideas, and sometimes some unique features.

Bob Parodi pointed out that much of the information in this booklet are by-laws for land
use boards, and maybe we can make suggestions our land use boards, even prior to the
completion of this board’s charter.

Christina McKillop brought the discussion back to figure out when we can meet next.
Because of conflicts during the 2 nd and 4th week in May, the meetings dates were set to be
May 5th, and again on May 19 th. Times for these meetings are both at 7pm at the Town
Hall.

Betty Hall moved to appoint Christina McKillop as Chair, second by Bob Parodi.
Passed 4-0

Bob Parodi moved David O’Sullivan as Vice-Chair, second by Betty Hall, Passed 4-0

Bob Parodi moved to Adjourn at 8:10, second Betty Hall. Passed 4-0.

Respectfully Submitted:


James Murphy
Secretary

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