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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Philip Ottaviani Ethics

ETHICS ISSUES BEDEVILING BOARD IN FRAMINGHAM
Ortiz, Edward. Boston Globe, 19 Nov 2000

As conflict-of-interest issues begin to cast a long shadow at the Memorial Building over the workings of Framingham's Zoning Board of Appeals, the issue of ethics is beginning to take center stage in the town's government, almost to the point of urgency.

Conflict-of-interest issues were raised in the [Philip Ottaviani] matter after he sat in on Donald Crawford's permit hearing on Sept. 26, where Crawford requested a move of his auto sales operation to 125 Waverly St. Ottaviani is a friend of Eric Baerson, who, in turn, has a business relationship with Crawford.

For [Esty], who has been a vocal representative of residents who believe they have been shortchanged by the current Zoning Board process, keeping the status quo on the Zoning Board would be onerous. She proposes that the town readopt the process of having town counsel present at Zoning Board meetings. Town counsel [Aaron Bikofsky] is not present when decisions are made at the board's meetings.

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FRAMINGHAM - As conflict-of-interest issues begin to cast a long shadow at the Memorial Building over the workings of Framingham's Zoning Board of Appeals, the issue of ethics is beginning to take center stage in the town's government, almost to the point of urgency.

Within the last three weeks, two members of the Zoning Board have been accused of involving themselves with matters in which they had a conflict of interest.

John Acton, the chairman of the board, resigned two weeks ago after the Board of Selectmen initiated an administrative inquiry into his involvement with a variance request on property owned by a friend of his father.

Last week, Aaron Bikofsky, the town's lawyer, issued an opinion that another Zoning Board member, Philip Ottaviani, created the appearance of a conflict when he participated in a hearing for a friend's business associate.

Selectmen were expected to decide whether or not to remove Ottaviani from the board during their meeting Thursday night, after the publication deadline for Globe West.

Since the potential for ethical conflicts are likely in many board actions in small communities, Framingham's dilemma is how to legislate new rules and regulations regarding such issues.

The real challenge will be how to define a situation where a conflict of interest is firmly established, given that such conflicts are sometimes highly subjective.

Selectman John Kahn's third attempt to get the board to consider ethical guidelines for boards and their members was approved unanimously at a Nov. 9 meeting of the Board of Selectmen.

Town Manager George King agrees with Kahn, but said that whatever action is taken must have a high degree of specificity. "We have to make sure we're very clear what the expectations are," said King.

The State Ethics Commission would not comment on any particular action regarding Framingham or its Zoning Board or investigations.

However, an Ethics Commission spokeswoman suggested that the town avail itself of the commission's ethics seminars. "We'll come out there, day or night," said Carol Carlson of the Ethics Commission.

The idea is one that Kahn has brought up to the board in the past. "My original concern over this dates back to February of 1998," said Kahn.

Kahn said that his desire to see the board reexamine ethical issues had nothing to do with Acton's resignation, or the allegations against Ottaviani.

Conflict-of-interest issues were raised in the Ottaviani matter after he sat in on Donald Crawford's permit hearing on Sept. 26, where Crawford requested a move of his auto sales operation to 125 Waverly St. Ottaviani is a friend of Eric Baerson, who, in turn, has a business relationship with Crawford.

In addition, Ottaviani has disclosed that he has received loans from Baerson.

Incidents such as these bring the subjective nature of such action into close scrutiny, with no closer scrutinizer of what is a conflict of interest than the public itself.

The selectmen's plate may now be fuller with ethical issues than it was a year ago, when Kahn suggested they discuss the issues closely.

Unfortunately, Kahn said, the impetus to examine such issues comes at a difficult time for the town, given the events of the last two months.

"It's the kind of thing that's best dealt with when you've had a little experience with it . . . not when you're looking down the barrel of gun aimed at somebody," he said.

Kahn, in his efforts to effect change in board conduct, is not alone in wanting to examine ethical issues on boards.

For Selectwoman Ginger Esty, the conflict-of-interest issues at the Zoning Board demand immediate action.

"I've been very concerned about the management of the Zoning Board, I'm now even more concerned," said Esty. "I'm looking at this as a time to have some real reform."

For Esty, who has been a vocal representative of residents who believe they have been shortchanged by the current Zoning Board process, keeping the status quo on the Zoning Board would be onerous. She proposes that the town readopt the process of having town counsel present at Zoning Board meetings. Town counsel Aaron Bikofsky is not present when decisions are made at the board's meetings.

"That's one of the problems with the way the zoning act works . . . if the Zoning Board issues a decision, the two parties are the person who got the permit and the irate neighbors," said Kahn. "At this point the town is simply a bystander."

Meanwhile, the events involving Ottaviani and Acton may force the town to make ethical guidelines and conflict-of-issue considerations a high priority.

"It's an issue that we need to continue to evaluate," said King, the town manager, of the potential for conflicts of interest. "We don't want to take undue action against people, we're all human. But at the same time, we have to make sure that the operations of our government are beyond reproach."

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OTTAVIANI'S FATE IN HANDS OF SELECTMEN BATTLE SWIRLS AROUND ETHICS ALLEGATIONS
Ortiz, Edward. Boston Globe, 21 Jan 2001


Selectmen are planning to hold a hearing on Ottaviani's fate on the board after he participated in a hearing on a new location for a car dealership last year. Ottaviani's friend and creditor, Eric Baerson, is a business associate of the car dealer. Ottaviani, 37, has written to the state Ethics Commission, saying he was unaware of the relationship.

As the manager of the Union House, Ottaviani said, his many connections to the community have helped him in business and political life. The Union House restaurant has been an anchor of the Coburnville section of south Framingham since 1943, when Ottaviani's grandfather, Philip Dario Ottaviani, opened the establishment as the Union Club.

These included charges that Ottaviani "attempted to interfere with an investigation concerning his official conduct as a member of the Zoning Board." [John Kahn]'s memorandum said that Ottaviani "failed to answer truthfully" questions posed to him about his official conduct.


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Local restaurateur and Zoning Board of Appeals member Philip Ottaviani Jr. is known around town for a gregarious and friendly nature. But in his escalating war with the Board of Selectmen, he has adopted a combative posture.

"The fight," he says, "has just begun."

Despite an effort by some members of the town's Board of Selectmen to remove him from his Zoning Board of Appeals post for alleged ethical misdeeds, Ottaviani last week orchestrated the ultimate defiant gesture: his unanimous election to the zoning board's chairmanship.

And in an interview at the Union House - his family's Waverly Street restaurant, which has been a gathering spot for Framingham politicians - the newly elevated chairman said he has no intention of succumbing to his critics.

He denied that he is guilty of any conflict of interest, and said his enemies on the board are overlooking the realities of life in Framingham. "If you live in this town and you know people, there are going to be appearances of conflict all day long," he said.

"The Board of Selectmen are trying to hold me to a standard that none of them can live up to - higher standards that have yet to be put into place."

Selectmen are planning to hold a hearing on Ottaviani's fate on the board after he participated in a hearing on a new location for a car dealership last year. Ottaviani's friend and creditor, Eric Baerson, is a business associate of the car dealer. Ottaviani, 37, has written to the state Ethics Commission, saying he was unaware of the relationship.

The controversy has prompted town manager George King to suggest that zoning board members take ethics commission classes and that new candidates get to know state conflict-of-interest laws intimately.

The selectmen are waiting for special counsel Robert Delahunt's recommendation on how to proceed on Ottaviani. The board has the power to remove him or leave him in place. To date, the selectmen's response has been marked by confusion - confusion that board chairman Charles Sistisky described at a recent meeting as "spinning our wheels."

As the manager of the Union House, Ottaviani said, his many connections to the community have helped him in business and political life. The Union House restaurant has been an anchor of the Coburnville section of south Framingham since 1943, when Ottaviani's grandfather, Philip Dario Ottaviani, opened the establishment as the Union Club.

The restaurant fell into financial difficulties recently, and was closed for more than 20 months until it reopened this month.

During an interview with Ottaviani at the restaurant, not far from the room where his mother met his father while stocking a cigarette machine years ago, he produced a white banker's box filled with memorabilia to reinforce the fact that his roots run deep in the community. Among the many items were photographs of current selectmen who have patronized the restaurant - the very selectmen who will ultimately decide if he keeps his zoning post.

The allegations swirling around Ottaviani were the second incident to hit the zoning board last year. Former zoning board chairman John Acton resigned in early November after the Board of Selectmen initiated an administrative inquiry into his involvement in a variance request on property owned by a friend of his father.

Selectwoman Ginger Esty says the absence of town counsel Aaron Bikofsky from board meetings may have left the board without the benefit of immediate advice and "let the door open to questions that went unanswered."

She also says Ottaviani's role as gregarious restaurateur may be problematic for a chairman of the zoning board.

"His talent is his friendliness. His connections are perfect qualifications for a restaurateur, but they're limiting as far as the people who would approach him on the zoning board," Esty said. "I don't know why he wants the headache."

"It's almost as if the fewer people you know, the better you'd be sitting on the ZBA," she said. "I think being a Town Meeting member and belonging to various standing committees is fine, but not serving on a quasi-judicial committee like the zoning board."

But Selectman John Kahn, who has been most vocal about raising the ethical standards on the zoning board, said he feels that a person's occupation has little bearing on the type of ethical behavior expected. He declined to comment on Ottaviani's status.

It was Kahn's memorandum to the Board of Selectmen, dated Nov. 30, that outlined specific charges of ethical violations by Ottaviani.

These included charges that Ottaviani "attempted to interfere with an investigation concerning his official conduct as a member of the Zoning Board." Kahn's memorandum said that Ottaviani "failed to answer truthfully" questions posed to him about his official conduct.

Ottaviani dismisses criticism of the zoning board and his actions as a leading member.

"I think we've been very good on the zoning board when it comes to judging every case on an individual basis," he said. "I think the ZBA does a good job, and I'll tell you that John Acton did a good job. He ran a good shop."

Ottaviani said being a restaurateur has nothing to do with his qualifications as a zoning board member, although he said he would recuse himself from any vote involving a regular patron.

"It's no different than being a lawyer, running a gas station, or a car wash," he said.

He called the Board of Selectmen's efforts to remove him a "comedy of errors."

"If I would have known what they would have put my family through before all this . . . I would have resigned," said Ottaviani. "It's too late to resign now."

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ACCUSATIONS FLY IN OTTAVIANI CASE POLICE REPORTS ALLEGE BRIBERY, INTERFERENCE
Cambanis, Thanassis. Boston Globe, 01 Mar 2001


The documents describe [Philip Ottaviani] associate [Eric Baerson] bragging that the hearing process was rigged, and add a new charge that Ottaviani heard applications from relatives of Marcello Mallegni, who holds four mortgages on properties owned or operated by Ottaviani.

[Dante Mallegni]'s brother, Marcello Mallegni, told police he lent Ottaviani about $340,000, and holds a second mortgage on Ottaviani's home, two other properties owned by the Ottaviani family, and the building that houses Ottaviani's restaurant, Union House.

Ottaviani told selectmen that Baerson telephoned him to ask about [Donald Crawford]'s application. Subsequently, on Sept. 26, Ottaviani voted to approve Crawford's application. According to statements from businessman Jerel Roseman submitted by town lawyers, Baerson after the hearing "bragged about how the process had been rigged."


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Triumphant after an associate won permission from the Zoning Board of Appeals to move his car dealership last September, Eric Baerson approached a businessman outside the board meeting room. The other businessman had opposed the permit during the hearing, asking how much green space the car dealership's new site would have.

Flashing a wallet full of money, Baerson allegedly told the businessman: "This is all the green space you need. It's in the bag. Get over it."

The alleged incident - which Baerson disputes - is described in police reports submitted by Framingham's Board of Selectmen to the state Ethics Commission in their case against Zoning Board Chairman Philip Ottaviani.

The hefty file, mailed last week and released to the public Monday, contains evidence to support the board's claim that Ottaviani inappropriately sat in on zoning decisions that affected people with whom he had financial relationships.

The documents describe Ottaviani associate Baerson bragging that the hearing process was rigged, and add a new charge that Ottaviani heard applications from relatives of Marcello Mallegni, who holds four mortgages on properties owned or operated by Ottaviani.

The board plans to hold a public hearing March 12 on the charges of appearance of conflict of interest, which could result in Ottaviani's dismissal.

The newly released evidence is part of a separate, parallel case before the Ethics Commission. The Board of Selectmen wants the commission to rule on three appearance-of-conflict charges, and has also asked it to explore a more serious conflict charge that, if substantiated, under state law could lead the commission to file criminal charges.

Ottaviani steadfastly defends his conduct on the board. "At worst, this is all appearances," he said. "I've said it a hundred times. I've done nothing wrong. It will all come out at the hearing."

The Board of Selectmen has taken far too long to act, Ottaviani said, and is holding him to an unrealistic standard in a small town where visible and active businessmen like him know a lot of people. "It's gotten way out of hand. It's a runaway train and they can't stop it," he said.

Framingham officials have traced a complex network of financial relationships among Ottaviani and some of the applicants who came before the zoning board. Questions over Ottaviani's ties to applicants arose in September, and the town said he has not fully cooperated with the police investigation launched in October.

Town lawyers asked the state Ethics Commission to consider whether Ottaviani intentionally hid information about his case from the commission in his own Dec. 11 submission and failed to cooperate with a Framingham police investigation. They also asked the state to rule on whether Ottaviani had an actual conflict when he ruled on a case involving Mallegni's sister-in-law.

Selectmen allege that Ottaviani "clearly omitted material facts" in his application to the Ethics Commission. Ottaviani said the commission has already issued a partial ruling, which his lawyer has and whose contents he won't disclose, and had asked him for a clarification he submitted Feb. 20.

Selectwoman Ginger Esty said many Ottaviani supporters think charges against him stem from personal grudges. She said she hopes releasing the evidence from the police investigation and executive sessions of the Board of Selectmen would shift attention to a warped zoning process and away from the personalities involved.

"Until now, we as selectmen have been in the position that we couldn't release information contained in this report because most of it was discussed in executive session," Esty said. "The impression was that this was personal, that this person was being picked on; but with this information people will have more an idea of the depth of the concern."

Added Selectwoman Esther Hopkins: "When we get through this hearing, we ought to know what went on, what was right, what was wrong. Phil [Ottaviani] sits under a shadow. We don't want it to go on any longer. If the charges can't be proved, we need to clear his name."

The newest charge surrounds Ottaviani's relationship with the Mallegni family. On Oct. 17 he voted for a variance that allowed Carol Mallegni to build a shed in her backyard. In December, however, he recused himself from hearing a variance application filed by her husband, Dante Mallegni.

Town lawyers expressed serious concern about the "undisclosed debtor/creditor relationship between Ottaviani and the applicant's family."

Dante Mallegni's brother, Marcello Mallegni, told police he lent Ottaviani about $340,000, and holds a second mortgage on Ottaviani's home, two other properties owned by the Ottaviani family, and the building that houses Ottaviani's restaurant, Union House.

According to Marcello Mallegni's statement, about $179,000 of the loan went to pay off back taxes and liens on the Union House building. However, Mallegni said, his financial dealings with Ottaviani have no bearing on his brother's ZBA hearing.

The town also asked the Ethics Commission to examine more closely the relationship among Ottaviani, Baerson, and car dealer Donald Crawford. It was Crawford who went before the ZBA on Sept. 26 for permission to move his car dealership.

Baerson, it turns out, sometimes would use Crawford's license to buy used cars. Baerson is friends with Ottaviani, lent him money and, according to police, had a business relationship with Ottaviani's restaurant.

Ottaviani told selectmen that Baerson telephoned him to ask about Crawford's application. Subsequently, on Sept. 26, Ottaviani voted to approve Crawford's application. According to statements from businessman Jerel Roseman submitted by town lawyers, Baerson after the hearing "bragged about how the process had been rigged."

Baerson in an interview with The Boston Globe dismissed the allegations as "ridiculous."

"I did not say those things," Baerson said.

"I'm going to start suing everybody when this is all over," Baerson said. "My reputation's been damaged dramatically."

Ottaviani said he never realized Baerson and Crawford had a business relationship, which he told selectmen would have raised a "red flag" for him.

In October, Framingham police began to investigate Ottaviani's financial ties to Baerson and the Mallegnis. Town lawyers say that Ottaviani wasn't straightforward, and had a friend, selectwoman candidate Beth Bannon, try to "interfere" with the investigation. Bannon said the charge is an attempt to derail her election campaign.

According to the town's Ethics Commission submission, Ottaviani "refused to cooperate fully" with the police investigation, and "was either untruthful with [Framingham Police Detective Michael] Hill or untruthful in his statement to the Board of Selectmen."

Town lawyers state: "Ottaviani admitted asking Beth Bannon to contact Paul Bridges, the chief of the Framingham police detective unit, for the purpose of having Detective Michael Hill's report changed to remove references to Ottaviani admitting that he had used some of the money he borrowed from Eric Baerson to pay back taxes owed to the Town of Framingham."

Bannon said she simply called the chief detective to point out inaccuracies in a police report. Any suggestion that she was trying to interfere, she said, was "politically motivated."

"When you challenge someone's credibility, you should be damn sure about what you're doing," Bannon said.

Ottaviani said he never tried to obstruct the police investigation and that "appearance of conflict is not grounds for removal" from the Zoning Board.

"In hindsight, if I knew they were going to put me and my family through this, I would have resigned," he said. "I never thought it would get this hostile. They've done too much to damage my reputation and hurt my family's business."

His lawyers are trying to obtain an extension on the March 12 hearing, he said. Selectmen, meanwhile, are preparing a list of witness they intend to subpoena and will finalize the three appearance-of-conflict charges at tonight's meeting.

Esty said the Board of Selectmen has not been dragging its feet.

"As time has gone by, more and more things have unfolded," she said. "The most disturbing thing is that this is a board that is supposed to be protecting the integrity of the zoning bylaws, and when decisions are made based on favoritism, the people who are trying to defend their property values have such a costly burden to appeal this. There's no remedy except in court - what kind of process is that? That needs correcting. I'm interested in making sure all the citizens are represented by a fair board."

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OTTAVIANI ETHICS CASE MOVING SLOWLY THREE HOURS SPENT ON THE FIRST WITNESS
Cambanis, Thanassis. Boston Globe, 12 Apr 2001


Town lawyers are presenting a detailed case, linking [Philip R. Ottaviani Jr.] family creditors to applicants for Zoning Board variances. Ottaviani and his lawyer say that as soon as Ottaviani realized there might be an appearance of conflict, he recused himself.

Thomas R. Kiley, Ottaviani's attorney, accused the town of "confusing and conflating" Ottaviani, other family members, and their creditors "to construct the web of allegations" that Ottaviani acted improperly.

After the opening statements from both attorneys, Framingham Police Detective Michael Hill testified about his interviews with a range of Zoning Board hearing participants and Ottaviani family creditors. All the people that Hill interviewed have also been subpoenaed to testify before selectmen in later hearings.

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Nineteen witnesses were on the docket Monday night to testify in the case against Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Philip R. Ottaviani Jr.

Three hours later, only one had testified.

"By the time they get done with this, Phil's term could be up," Planning Board member Helen Lemoine said after the hearing, echoing concerns of critics who grumble that the Ottaviani case has dragged on for too long.

An investigation that began in September has spiraled into a cumbersome hearing process, with the Board of Selectmen acting as judge and jury to decide whether to remove Ottaviani before his term expires in 2003. Already, testimony has been scheduled to last through mid-May.

The town's case charges Ottaviani with improperly hearing permit applications from residents with whom he had financial relationships, and with obstructing the police investigation into the matter.

On Monday, Ottaviani and his attorney sat before the five selectmen in a hearing room set up like a courtroom, replete with a podium for the lawyers, a witness stand, and a professional stenographer.

"It should be clear this is not a criminal hearing," Selectmen chairman John Kahn warned the audience, composed almost entirely of subpoenaed witnesses and Ottaviani supporters. His comment elicited some guffaws.

What followed was a ponderous rehash of police reports prepared more than two months ago, the start of a process that could take more time and cost more money than any of the selectmen had anticipated.

The town has incurred about $9,000 in legal fees to prepare for the hearings, which will reconvene May 10 and May 16.

The town has hired two attorneys, Robert Delahunt Jr. and James Lampke, who each charge a $125 hourly rate.

The hearing was run exactly like a trial, with opening statements, two opposing attorneys cross-examining witnesses, and the Board of Selectmen ruling on objections by the attorneys.

Selectmen have pushed for a thorough airing of the charges against Ottaviani, saying that regardless of the outcome, the town needs to restore integrity to the zoning application process.

"We had really thought we would get further tonight," Kahn said. "We're having a fair and complete hearing. If it takes time and money, that's what we'll do. At this point, we're into it, and we have to see it through."

The spectator gallery - which drew public officials from Holliston and Ashland in addition to a Who's Who of Framingham politics - resounded with complaints after the hearing.

"This is high drama for Framingham," said Town Meeting member Doug Freeman. "At this point, I think it's a waste of time."

Town clerk Valery Mulvey muttered: "This is costing a fortune."

Lemoine, the Planning Board member, said she attended the hearing for "educational" reasons, because the town has failed to clarify the standards of conduct for appointed officials. "I'm a volunteer official. It's a great concern to me, and I want to know what standard I'm being held to," she said. As a taxpayer, she said, "I'm concerned there's money being used here that could be spent more wisely."

Town lawyers are presenting a detailed case, linking Ottaviani family creditors to applicants for Zoning Board variances. Ottaviani and his lawyer say that as soon as Ottaviani realized there might be an appearance of conflict, he recused himself.

Thomas R. Kiley, Ottaviani's attorney, accused the town of "confusing and conflating" Ottaviani, other family members, and their creditors "to construct the web of allegations" that Ottaviani acted improperly.

"Guilt by association is not the rule of law," Kiley said. After hearing a case "based on a phone call from a friend to a friend," Kiley said, "you will have no choice but to admit that Philip Ottaviani Jr. acted appropriately under the circumstances and that these proceedings here were ill-conceived."

After the opening statements from both attorneys, Framingham Police Detective Michael Hill testified about his interviews with a range of Zoning Board hearing participants and Ottaviani family creditors. All the people that Hill interviewed have also been subpoenaed to testify before selectmen in later hearings.

The evening was punctuated with a few humorous exchanges. Kahn asked if he should refer to Ottaviani as "the defendant," and his attorney, with a laugh, said, "I'd prefer respondent."

At another point, the town's attorney accidentally referred to the Board of Selectmen as "the court," then corrected himself.

Despite the occasional levity, no one in the crowd of three dozen was joking after the hearing adjourned. Mal Schulze, a Town Meeting member and Ottaviani supporter, said the board was draining town resources in order to persecute the Zoning Board chairman.

"If they applied that standard to themselves, they could not meet it," Schulze said. "That makes it a sham and a farce."

He said a contingent of board critics would challenge the town's legal budget on the floor of Town Meeting, perhaps moving to withhold appropriations that would pay the costs of the Ottaviani hearings. "Most of the time, we accept a figure and don't ask questions," Schulze said. "This time, it'll be a reason for discussion, and we will get an answer."

Robert Cassidy, a former Holliston Finance Committee member, glumly described the hearings as "the crucifixion of another town official."

Beth Bannon, a friend of Ottaviani who has been subpoenaed for allegedly interfering with the police investigation, said the process was not only politically motivated but, at six months and running, was taking too long to resolve.

"So much for justice being swift," Bannon said. "So much for justice."

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OTTAVIANI CONFIDENT HE WILL BE CLEARED OF CONFLICT CLAIM
Cambanis, Thanassis. Boston Globe, 24 May 2001

The federal judgment against [Phillip Ottaviani Jr.] was unsealed May 9, and concerns a 1989 conviction for six counts of "false statements." The sentence was reduced to three years probation because Ottaviani cooperated in a federal investigation.

In one case, town officials charged Ottaviani with hearing an application from a car dealer to move his business even though Ottaviani had financial dealings with a business associate of the car dealer. Ottaviani recused himself from a final vote in that matter.

Ottaviani and his lawyer argued that Ottaviani's father is the sole owner of the family business, the Union House restaurant, and that the restaurant's finances have no relevance to the case against Ottaviani.


FRAMINGHAM - After the town's lawyers failed to include Philip R. Ottaviani Jr.'s criminal record in the appearance-of-conflict-of- interest case against him, Ottaviani and his lawyer said they are confident he will be cleared in two months when a final ruling is issued.

"They've got nothing," Ottaviani, the Zoning Board of Appeals chairman, said after the final hearing before the Board of Selectmen last Thursday.

The only major twist in the case came when Robert Delahunt Jr., who presented Framingham's case against Ottaviani, tried to submit as evidence a 12-year-old criminal violation for false statements.

"I think the witness's credibility has been called into question," Delahunt argued. "Credibility issues are best assessed in the light of all evidence."

The federal judgment against Ottaviani was unsealed May 9, and concerns a 1989 conviction for six counts of "false statements." The sentence was reduced to three years probation because Ottaviani cooperated in a federal investigation.

John Kahn, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, ruled that the federal judgment could not be submitted as evidence because it would bias the selectmen, who will ultimately rule on the charges against Ottaviani.

"They were concerned about whether they were being perceived as treating Phil unfairly," said Ottaviani's lawyer, Thomas Kiley.

The Ottaviani case began with a police investigation in October, and the town has taken pains to follow the letter of the law in a procedure with little precedent. Framingham has hired two lawyers to guide the town through the removal process, and has held three lengthy public hearings to hear sworn testimony from more than a dozen witnesses.

At stake is whether Ottaviani violated state ethics laws by sitting on Zoning Board hearings when he had financial relationships with the applicants.

In one case, town officials charged Ottaviani with hearing an application from a car dealer to move his business even though Ottaviani had financial dealings with a business associate of the car dealer. Ottaviani recused himself from a final vote in that matter.

The other charges surround a variance application from a woman who wanted a permit to build a backyard shed. Her brother-in-law became a major creditor of Ottaviani's family after the Zoning Board ruled on her shed application.

On the last night of testimony, selectmen, sitting as a panel of judges, heard from a feisty Ottaviani, who said town officials had dragged out the procedure much longer than necessary.

"I thought we could get this thing resolved with the selectmen in November," Ottaviani said, referring to an executive session last fall when the board questioned him about his relationships to various Zoning Board petitioners. "I guess I was wrong."

Ottaviani and his lawyer argued that Ottaviani's father is the sole owner of the family business, the Union House restaurant, and that the restaurant's finances have no relevance to the case against Ottaviani.

"I would say the town's case is well intentioned but misguided," Kiley said. "The standards to which Phil is arguably being held are not something that any town official anywhere could comply with."

After certified transcripts of the hearings are prepared, lawyers will submit written closing arguments to the town and present brief oral arguments at a regular selectmen's meeting, probably sometime in early July.

Ottaviani supporters packed the hearing room during all three nights of testimony, and one even brought a stuffed kangaroo last Thursday - an apparent jab at the Board of Selectmen.

If the board rules against Ottaviani and seeks to remove him from his post on the Zoning Board, he retains the option of appealing to the Superior Court. "I think selectmen are acting fully within their authority and I think we've done it in a very responsible way," Kahn said.

In the end, all those involved in the case say they hope clearer standards on appearance of conflict of interest emerge for town officials, particularly in smaller communities where many people know each other.

"Where people are at risk - and it's not just in Framingham - is any kind of vague perception standard," Kiley said. "It can be very expensive to defend one's name. For me, the solution to the problem is clarifying the standards to which people are held. In a system that glorifies volunteerism and town meeting, the fact that people are going to know other people comes with the territory."

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OTTAVIANI, SELECTMEN SETTLE UP ETHICS PROBE DREW CRITICISM
Abelson, Jenn. Boston Globe, 14 May 2002

The selectmen had accused [Philip R. Ottaviani Jr.] of hearing cases before the Zoning Board from applicants with whom he or his family allegedly had financial relationships, creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. A yearlong investigation and hearing process ended in September, when the selectmen voted not to remove Ottaviani from his post. They sent him a letter of reprimand, saying that he should have disclosed his relationship to petitioners before the Zoning Board.

Ottaviani wanted the option of filing a lawsuit against Selectman John Kahn, who served as the chair of the board during the investigation, for what Ottaviani called "libelous and slanderous" statements Kahn made in a separate but concurring decision written several days after the selectmen's vote.

Although Ottaviani failed to change the liability terms, he prevailed in eliminating statements from the agreement that mentioned his appointment to the Zoning Board. The initial waiver said, "[T]his General Release neither requires a certain action nor affects in any way how the Board may choose to act should Ottaviani seek re-appointment to the Framingham Zoning Board of Appeals."

The final curtain has fallen on the drama examining Philip R. Ottaviani Jr.'s ethical behavior as a town official - a saga that absorbed much of the Board of Selectmen's attention last year.

Months of hair-splitting over an agreement for Ottaviani to collect about $34,000 in legal fees ended in April, when he accepted conditions that prevent him from suing the town over its investigation of the ethical implications of his actions as chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

This ends a case that spurred criticism from many town officials who lamented that selectmen were wasting Framingham's time and money.

The selectmen had accused Ottaviani of hearing cases before the Zoning Board from applicants with whom he or his family allegedly had financial relationships, creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. A yearlong investigation and hearing process ended in September, when the selectmen voted not to remove Ottaviani from his post. They sent him a letter of reprimand, saying that he should have disclosed his relationship to petitioners before the Zoning Board.

Two months later, Town Meeting voted to reimburse Ottaviani for more than $34,000 in legal fees he incurred while defending himself. Town Meeting set the payment deadline for Feb. 14.

Ottaviani has been wrangling with the town over the terms of the agreement, delaying payment for more than two months. He had initially insisted that the town change the accord so that he would be prohibited from suing only for actions up until the selectmen voted not to remove him as chairman.

Ottaviani wanted the option of filing a lawsuit against Selectman John Kahn, who served as the chair of the board during the investigation, for what Ottaviani called "libelous and slanderous" statements Kahn made in a separate but concurring decision written several days after the selectmen's vote.

The town refused to negotiate this provision with Ottaviani, who ultimately dropped the request.

"I've decided I had to move forward. It's time for people like John Kahn and myself to put this behind us and move forward to build a better relationship between the Zoning Board and Board of Selectmen," Ottaviani said. "It's time to work more positively together."

The town's insurance company covered $18,000 of the fees, and Framingham sent Ottaviani's lawyer, Thomas Kiley, the balance of $16,387.71 last week. The town paid at least $53,000 for two lawyers retained specifically for the investigation of the conflict-of- interest charges.

"I'm pleased this has been resolved," Kahn said. "The matter, as far as I'm concerned and the town is concerned, is over."

Although Ottaviani failed to change the liability terms, he prevailed in eliminating statements from the agreement that mentioned his appointment to the Zoning Board. The initial waiver said, "[T]his General Release neither requires a certain action nor affects in any way how the Board may choose to act should Ottaviani seek re-appointment to the Framingham Zoning Board of Appeals."

Ottaviani said his reappointment had nothing to do with his legal fees or the town's liability, and therefore should not be mentioned in the waiver.

"It's apples and steak sandwiches. It's totally different. There's no reason it should be mentioned," Ottaviani said.

Although some town officials have criticized Kahn for leading what they call a wasteful investigation of Ottaviani, Kahn insists that it was a worthwhile process.

"You'll see there's a greater awareness of the importance of behaving in a way that doesn't create suspicions of misconduct," he said, adding that the selectmen are developing a local ethics policy.

Mal Schulze, a former Town Meeting member who sponsored the article to pay Ottaviani's legal fees, said he's glad the final act of the lengthy drama is over.

"The whole thing has just been a cloud on the town," Schulze said. "It wasn't necessary from the beginning, and we never should have come this far in the first place."

______________________

COMMISSION WON'T HEAR ETHICS CASE INVESTIGATOR: CHARGES DON'T WARRANT REVIEW
Cambanis, Thanassis. Boston Globe, 05 Aug 2001


[Philip R. Ottaviani Jr.] and his lawyer said that after more than 10 months of investigation and hearings, the Ethics Commission's letter amounts to an exoneration of the appearance of conflict charges. Town lawyers, on the other hand, still think Ottaviani should be dismissed because under state law selectmen can remove any appointee "for cause," in this case because Ottaviani heard zoning cases from applicants with whom he allegedly had financial relationships.

The town has charged Ottaviani with hearing an application from Donald Crawford to move a car dealership, even though a business associate of Crawford's had lent Ottaviani money. Ottaviani recused himself from the final vote on that matter. A second charge alleges that Ottaviani interfered with the police investigation of the Crawford incident. The third and final charge involves a permit application by Carol and Dante Mallegni; Dante Mallegni's brother had lent about $340,000 to the Ottaviani family to reopen its restaurant, the Union House.

As a law school graduate and three-term veteran of the zoning board, [Robert Delahunt Jr.] said, Ottaviani should have known that his debtor- creditor relationships would raise the appearance of conflict. "Mr. Ottaviani was keenly aware of his obligations to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest," Delahunt said. "Mr. Ottaviani's position is not analogous to that of a poorly educated lay person."


--

The town's conflict of interest case against Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Philip R. Ottaviani Jr. is not strong enough to warrant consideration by the state Ethics Commission, an investigator has determined.

The ruling - sent in a letter given to the Globe - creates a problem for town officials who spent more than $50,000 pursuing the case and who will rule later this month on whether or not to remove Ottaviani from his post. The Board of Selectmen had submitted its evidence to the Ethics Commission for review.

"We have reviewed your submission carefully and have determined that the matter does not warrant presentation to the Commission for official action," Ethics Commission senior investigator David Giannotti wrote in a letter dated June 29.

The case has dragged on for nearly a year, leading some critics, including a selectman, to argue that town government has devoted too much time and money to the Ottaviani case. The Board of Selectmen hopes to vote by the end of the month on three ethics charges it brought against Ottaviani, who was unanimously re-elected chairman of the Zoning Board on Tuesday.

"It's certainly something to take into account," John Kahn, the Board of Selectmen chairman, said of the Ethics Commission letter. "The board will have to decide what weight to give the Ethics Commission opinion, which includes everything from no weight to it's binding on us."

Ottaviani and his lawyer said that after more than 10 months of investigation and hearings, the Ethics Commission's letter amounts to an exoneration of the appearance of conflict charges. Town lawyers, on the other hand, still think Ottaviani should be dismissed because under state law selectmen can remove any appointee "for cause," in this case because Ottaviani heard zoning cases from applicants with whom he allegedly had financial relationships.

Since opening an investigation in October, selectmen charged Ottaviani with appearance of conflict of interest and interfering with a police investigation. Before the hearings that took place in April and May, selectmen said Ottaviani's conduct tainted the Zoning Board's credibility.

The town has charged Ottaviani with hearing an application from Donald Crawford to move a car dealership, even though a business associate of Crawford's had lent Ottaviani money. Ottaviani recused himself from the final vote on that matter. A second charge alleges that Ottaviani interfered with the police investigation of the Crawford incident. The third and final charge involves a permit application by Carol and Dante Mallegni; Dante Mallegni's brother had lent about $340,000 to the Ottaviani family to reopen its restaurant, the Union House.

In the June 29 letter to the two attorneys hired by the town to handle the Ottaviani case, however,Giannotti, the Ethics Commission investigator, wrote that if Ottaviani were considered guilty of an appearance of conflict, that would raise concerns that "we might cast `too wide a net' and cause a public official to not only have to think about his relationship with the applicant but his relationship with anyone who has a relationship with the applicant."

"We also understand that reasonable people disagree as to these matters, and the town may not be particularly happy with our response," Giannotti added.

Ottaviani's lawyer has asked the Board of Selectmen to dismiss the charges against his client.

"I've been exonerated for a long time," said Ottaviani, who had received a separate letter from the Ethics Commission on the case. "I don't know how any reasonable person after reading those letters could feel I did anything wrong. I don't know how they could vote to remove me."

Ottaviani also criticized the town for withholding the confidential Ethics Commission letter, dated June 29, until last week. "They sat on this for a month," Ottaviani said.

The selectmen - who have already dedicated three special meetings to hearing testimony about the Ottaviani case - will hear closing oral arguments Aug. 16 and should vote on the matter by the end of the month.

"There's nothing I'm aware of in the statute that says [the Ethics Commission letter] is binding on us, but the Board could decide to adopt its reasoning or even its result," Kahn said.

Robert Delahunt Jr., the attorney who prosecuted the town's case, argued in his closing brief that the selectmen should ignore the Ethics Commission's arguments and remove Ottaviani. In his closing brief, Delahunt only discussed the letter from the Ethics Commission to Ottaviani, and did not mention the letter the Commission sent to the town.

Officials can remove Ottaviani "for cause" under a different state law than the ethics code, Delahunt wrote in his brief. He said the Ethics Commission's June 27 letter to Ottaviani "is totally irrelevant to this proceeding."

As a law school graduate and three-term veteran of the zoning board, Delahunt said, Ottaviani should have known that his debtor- creditor relationships would raise the appearance of conflict. "Mr. Ottaviani was keenly aware of his obligations to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest," Delahunt said. "Mr. Ottaviani's position is not analogous to that of a poorly educated lay person."

Throughout the investigation, Delahunt said, Ottaviani acted with "hubris," interfering with the police investigation and misrepresenting facts about his creditor relationships. "This type of conduct and the perception of it erodes public confidence in appointed officials and undermines town government," Delahunt said.

But Thomas R. Kiley, Ottaviani's attorney, said the town has failed to prove any of its three allegations and is trying to hold his client to a standard never actually articulated.

"Philip R. Ottaviani Jr. did not violate the state conflict of interest law or any identifiable supplemental standards, and therefore did not act in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that a person can improperly influence or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties as a member of the Framingham Zoning Board of Appeals," Kiley argued in his closing brief.

If the selectmen decide to remove Ottaviani, he could appeal the decision or even sue the board. But town officials are eager to conclude deliberations soon.

Selectman Chris Petrini, the lone voice on the board against holding the Ottaviani hearings, said he believes town government has spent too much time on the matter already.

"I have had concerns for many months about the hearing process and whether it was a good allocation of resources," Petrini said. "I'm glad we've heard from the Ethics Commission. I would be reluctant to support removal based on the evidence I've seen, and these letters further corroborate that."

_________________

PRELIMINARY VOTE CLEARS OTTAVIANI
Cambanis, Thanassis. Boston Globe, 14 Sep 2001


Selectmen could remove [Philip R. Ottaviani Jr.] if they had implemented strict written standards in advance. Any decision to remove Ottaviani, [Thomas Kiley] argued, would taint the town's commitment to ethics.

Framingham's attorney, however, argued that the town had presented extensive evidence that Ottaviani had behaved inappropriately enough to warrant removal. "Sitting in this town as a [Zoning Board] member is not a right, it's privilege," Robert Delahunt Jr., the town's outside counsel for this proceeding, said in his final argument. "Mr. Ottaviani's privilege is dwarfed by the town's right to ensure there is integrity in its appointed officials."

Town officials accused Ottaviani of acting unethically in his position on the Zoning Board, hearing cases from applicants with whom he or his family allegedly had financial relationships. In one case, Ottaviani heard, but did not rule on, an application to move a car dealership from a businessman with whom he had indirect dealings. In a second case, Ottaviani is charged with hearing an application to build a shed from a woman whose family had loaned more than $300,000 to Ottaviani's family to re-open their local restaurant, the Union House. Ottaviani was also charged with interfering with the police investigation into the case.


FRAMINGHAM - After doggedly pursuing a case for more than a year, the Board of Selectmen took a preliminary vote last night that effectively clears Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Philip R. Ottaviani Jr. of charges that some of his past actions created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Three of the five board members supported a motion by Selectman Chris Petrini to drop the charges, saying the town had not provided adequate evidence against Ottaviani.

"I am thrilled that this matter has come to a just conclusion," Ottaviani said last night. "It's been a long and costly travail for me. "

The board is expected to take a final vote on Petrini's motion at next Thursday's meeting. The late night move effectively brings to a close the case against Ottaviani, which has held town government's attention ever since police opened an investigation into his conduct last October. Selectmen convened a long public hearing process in April, which has cost the town at least $53,000 and only came to a close yesterday.

They vowed last fall to "restore integrity to the the zoning process," and last night took a step toward finally resolving the case. The board had scheduled a preliminary vote last night on whether to remove Ottaviani, dismiss the charges, or issue a reprimand.

Ottaviani has the legal right to challenge the board's final decision in court and sue to recoup his legal fees.

"You are being asked to remove Phil for standards that have never been articulated," Ottaviani's attorney Thomas Kiley argued last night.

Selectmen could remove Ottaviani if they had implemented strict written standards in advance. Any decision to remove Ottaviani, Kiley argued, would taint the town's commitment to ethics.

"If the people see a deal made, a political decision, business as usual, you not honoring the evidence, that will not bring the result you want," Kiley said.

Framingham's attorney, however, argued that the town had presented extensive evidence that Ottaviani had behaved inappropriately enough to warrant removal. "Sitting in this town as a [Zoning Board] member is not a right, it's privilege," Robert Delahunt Jr., the town's outside counsel for this proceeding, said in his final argument. "Mr. Ottaviani's privilege is dwarfed by the town's right to ensure there is integrity in its appointed officials."

Selectmen chairman John Kahn had been a strong advocate of removing Ottaviani, but said last night he would support a compromise. Petrini has been a critic of the process since it began earlier this year. Selectwoman Esther Hopkins said she would not cast a vote last night because she wanted a week to digest the closing arguments.

The board is expected to take a final binding vote next Thursday night after writing a decision.

Little new information has surfaced since Delahunt and Kiley filed briefs with the town in February and March. The two lawyers filed final briefs in July, with Delahunt recommending that the town remove Ottaviani for behavior that "erodes public confidence in appointed officials and undermines town government."

Town officials accused Ottaviani of acting unethically in his position on the Zoning Board, hearing cases from applicants with whom he or his family allegedly had financial relationships. In one case, Ottaviani heard, but did not rule on, an application to move a car dealership from a businessman with whom he had indirect dealings. In a second case, Ottaviani is charged with hearing an application to build a shed from a woman whose family had loaned more than $300,000 to Ottaviani's family to re-open their local restaurant, the Union House. Ottaviani was also charged with interfering with the police investigation into the case.

A letter from the state Ethics Commission to the selectmen, dated June 29, ruled that Ottaviani's actions did not merit any investigation or action from state officials. Ottaviani and his lawyer criticized the town for withholding that letter a full month before releasing it.

All along, Ottaviani's lawyer has argued that the Zoning Board chairman was being held to an impossible standard, and that all he had done was hear applications from "a friend of a friend of a friend." Ottaviani, he argued, had recused himself from rulings if he considered his relationship from the applicant to be too close.

The town's lawyer, however, said Ottaviani's conduct was extraordinary and unbecoming. "We're here because Mr. Ottaviani had a debtor-creditor relationship involving a no-interest cash loan with a person who then tried to lobby his board," Delahunt said. "Ethics are simple in this case."

_______________________

FINAL VOTE CLEARS OTTAVIANI IN ETHICS CASE
Boston Globe, 24 Sep 2001

FRAMINGHAM FINAL VOTE CLEARS OTTAVIANI IN ETHICS CASE Drawing to a close - at least for now - a yearlong dispute with Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Philip R. Ottaviani Jr., the Board of Selectmen voted Thursday to clear Ottaviani of charges that some of his actions created the appearance of a conflict of interest. The unanimous vote ended hearings that began in April. Selectman Chris Petrini, the most vocal critic of the hearing process, wrote the decision. Three days of testimony and an extensive packet of materials assembled by the town's attorney did not constitute "sufficient evidence" to remove Ottaviani from his position, the decision said. However, the board wrote a letter of reprimand that will go on file in the Town Clerk's office, saying Ottaviani should have disclose his relationship to petitioners before the Zoning Board.


FRAMINGHAM FINAL VOTE CLEARS OTTAVIANI IN ETHICS CASE Drawing to a close - at least for now - a yearlong dispute with Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Philip R. Ottaviani Jr., the Board of Selectmen voted Thursday to clear Ottaviani of charges that some of his actions created the appearance of a conflict of interest. The unanimous vote ended hearings that began in April. Selectman Chris Petrini, the most vocal critic of the hearing process, wrote the decision. Three days of testimony and an extensive packet of materials assembled by the town's attorney did not constitute "sufficient evidence" to remove Ottaviani from his position, the decision said. However, the board wrote a letter of reprimand that will go on file in the Town Clerk's office, saying Ottaviani should have disclose his relationship to petitioners before the Zoning Board. The town already has paid at least $53,000 for two special lawyers retained in the Ottaviani case.

________________________

WHAT HAS THE TOWN LEARNED? CASE ON OTTAVIANI RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT FUTURE
Cambanis, Thanassis. Boston Globe, 27 Sep 2001


Throughout the process, however, [Philip R. Ottaviani] has insisted he violated no rules when he heard zoning applications from some residents with whom he had undisclosed financial relationships. Selectmen agreed with him last week, siding against their own lawyer when they decided not to remove Ottaviani from his appointed post but simply to send him a letter of reprimand.

Dozens of Ottaviani supporters attended the hearings, and in June a Special Town Meeting almost refused to pay the town's legal bill to mount the case against Ottaviani, which so far has cost $53,000.

Selectmen, in rendering their decision on Ottaviani, have promised to craft a clearer ethics and conflict-of-interest policy for the town. [John Kahn], in a concurring opinion he drafted this week, argues that, despite its decision not to remove Ottaviani, the board should not abdicate its responsibility to rule on local ethics cases. Selectmen have a responsibility to uphold the appearance that its appointed boards operate "free from any reasonable taint of suspicion of favoritism or self-dealing by any member," Kahn wrote.


--

With an at times draining, at times bruising, yearlong ethics case against Philip R. Ottaviani nearly over, Framingham's political establishment can now turn to the tough question at the bottom of the seemingly endless parade of hearings, executive sessions, depositions and legal briefs: Has the town learned a lesson and wiped away the hint of corruption its selectmen saw in the genesis of the case against the Zoning Board of Appeals chairman?

"I'm not terribly encouraged that anybody has really learned anything from this," said John Kahn, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, one of the driving forces behind the lengthy and thorough public hearing process. "I'm very concerned."

The point of the hearings that dragged from April to September, according to the town's lawyer, was to restore residents' faith in local government and remove a lingering sense that corruption had contaminated Town Hall.

Throughout the process, however, Ottaviani has insisted he violated no rules when he heard zoning applications from some residents with whom he had undisclosed financial relationships. Selectmen agreed with him last week, siding against their own lawyer when they decided not to remove Ottaviani from his appointed post but simply to send him a letter of reprimand.

Dozens of Ottaviani supporters attended the hearings, and in June a Special Town Meeting almost refused to pay the town's legal bill to mount the case against Ottaviani, which so far has cost $53,000.

Now, the cleared Board of Appeals has the option to sue the Board of Selectmen for his legal fees or go to Town Meeting for compensation.

And political observers are left wondering whether the selectmen's lesson on ethics was clearly heard.

"Have we learned anything? Man, I hope so," said Planning Board chairwoman Helen Lemoine. "I just hope the town, our boards, our Town Meeting, have learned how to conduct themselves properly."

This spring, the town held a voluntary ethics seminar for town employees, appointees, and officials. And a new procedure for town board appointments asks applicants whether they are familiar with state ethics laws.

Selectmen, in rendering their decision on Ottaviani, have promised to craft a clearer ethics and conflict-of-interest policy for the town. Kahn, in a concurring opinion he drafted this week, argues that, despite its decision not to remove Ottaviani, the board should not abdicate its responsibility to rule on local ethics cases. Selectmen have a responsibility to uphold the appearance that its appointed boards operate "free from any reasonable taint of suspicion of favoritism or self-dealing by any member," Kahn wrote.

The town should expect its officials to exhibit good judgment in addition to obeying state ethics laws, Kahn said.

Conflict of interest "has been under the microscope," said Ottaviani, who believes the town should have referred the matter to the state Ethics Commission. "They could have learned this lesson in a less costly way."

Ottaviani retains the right to sue the town for his legal fees. He also could ask Town Meeting to simply appropriate money to help him defray his costs.

"This has been a huge financial burden on myself and my family," Ottaviani said.

Framingham could have spent the $53,000 on ethics seminars, he suggested, or drafting clearer standards than currently exist for local government officials.

Nonetheless, Ottaviani wants petitioners before the Board of Appeals to disclose any connections they have with board members to prevent future cases like his.

"I know when I have a conflict of interest and when I should and should not sit on a case," he said. "I've recused myself on at least a dozen cases."

Selectman Ginger Esty said she and other selectmen initially thought the hearing process would move forward much more quickly than it did, and in the future might be more likely to refer conflict cases to state ethics officials. "There were several pitfalls we fell into," Esty said. For one, she noted, the town was unable to use its in-house legal counsel, Aaron Bikofsky, because he himself had a conflict of interest in the case.

"If we could have used our own town counsel, that could have saved us a lot of money," Esty said.

Once all the legal bills are tallied and the town finds out whether Ottaviani plans to try to recoup his own costs, town volunteers and officials will better be able to measure the case's impact.

"Framingham's politics can be pretty brutal sometimes, but this was perceived by a lot of people to be a political difference that was just carried to an extreme," Town Meeting member Kathy Vassar said. "One person was singled out and the town went overboard."

Still, though, Vassar said, "people dealing with boards frequently have the impression that boards can be influenced by groups of people."

Perhaps the case and the publicity that surrounded it will raise awareness of ethics, she said.

Town Meeting member Steve Kruger said that, although Ottaviani's case had polarized political insiders, "people's memories are, frankly, quite short."

Although Kruger said he thinks the rancor that surfaced at June's Town Meeting has already dissipated, he hopes local officials harness some of the energy spawned by the Ottaviani hearings.

"The town wanted to do the right thing and make sure some ethical standards got created," Kruger said. "That will be the real acid test - to see if the town implements some ethics standards."

_______________

Selectmen’s Meeting on September 13, 2001 Closing Argument of the ZBA Hearing Continued

Mr. Petrini suggested the following motion for the purpose of discussion.
Motion:

Mr. Petrini moved that Philip Ottaviani not be removed as a member of the Framingham Zoning Board of Appeals. Based on the evidence presented, and as referenced in the letter from the Senior Investigator of the Enforcement Division of the State Ethics Commission of June 29, 2001, the Board should issue a letter to Philip Ottaviani (with copies to the Town Clerk) indicating that the respondent, in an appropriate exercise of caution, should have disclosed his relationship with Mr. Baerson prior to hearing evidence on the applications of Mr. Crawford in Cases 0055 and 0056. The letter should further note that the failure to disclose such a relationship, based on the evidence presented, does not warrant his removal from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

As reasons for this decision, insufficient evidence of a conflict of interest has been presented under Charges I, II, or III to warrant the sanction of removal. Further reasons can be discussed by the Board and will be set forth in the decision. If the Board deems it appropriate, the Board should further encourage the Framingham ZBA to adopt more specific standards governing the application of Chapter 268A to ZBA members, and the Board should further commit to promulgating and adopting an Ethics Policy applicable to all Municipal Employees of the Town that will further detail the specifics of conduct that is and is not permissible under the state ethics law, as applicable to Framingham. Ms. Esty seconded his motion.

Mr. Petrini added that he agreed that the Board does have a substantial amount of authority as to whether or not to remove Mr. Ottaviani from the ZBA. He also said the Board should refer to the ethics law, which he felt would not warrant removal in this case. Mr. Petrini said it would have been wise for Mr. Ottaviani to make a disclosure statement. Mr. Sisitsky supported Mr. Petrini’s motion. He felt there had been sufficient grounds to have a police investigation and make formal charges in this matter. He did not feel, based mostly on the two letters from the Ethics Commission, that there was not sufficient cause for removal of Mr. Ottaviani from the ZBA. He would offer the motion that the Board take no action on the charges, but he supported Mr. Petrini’s motion. Ms. Esty also felt the Town’s case was not proven. As the case wore on, she felt that removal was not warranted. Dr. Hopkins said she is not going to vote tonight in order to review the entire case as closed tonight.

Mr. Kahn said he does not have a problem with the bottom line of Mr. Petrini’s motion. Mr. Kahn furthered that charge 2 had nothing to do with the conflict of interest law and the written decision should speak to that. He felt that the decision does not give enough thought as to why there is a disclosure clause within the ethics law. He continued that it was an important aspect of the law that when there is a potential conflict of interest then it is imperative that a disclosure be made. This allows the appointing authority to review the circumstances and make a judgment as to whether the public will still be served fairly and justly by having the person participate. Mr. Kahn had hoped that the Board would vote to have Mr. Petrini draft the written decision. He said he would be in favor of voting in some resolution as given by Mr. Petrini tonight. Mr. Kahn felt it was important for the public to be aware of the reasons for the hearing proceedings.

Mr. Petrini said he will undertake writing the decision and will do his best to have it ready for the Selectmen’s packet on Tuesday. He will try to incorporate all of the Board’s comments as well. Mr. Kahn asked if he would comment on case 0057. Mr. Petrini said he would address that case as well. He felt that the issue was weaker then the other two cases, so he did not address it this evening. Mr. Petrini’s motion was voted four in favor. Dr. Hopkins abstained.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

George King

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Town Manager
August 11, 2003
by Jenn Abelson, Boston Globe Staff

FRAMINGHAM - An ethics complaint filed against Town Manager George P. King Jr. alleges that he played strip poker with his assistants, who are sisters, held push-up contests with them in the Memorial Building, and on at least one occasion awarded the winner a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka.

In a complaint filed last week with the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission, Seth Levenson, the estranged husband of one sister, also accused King of violating state ethics laws by having Allison Potter supervise Karen Potter in the town manager's office. King and both sisters disputed the allegations last week.



In an e-mailed statement, King wrote: "These are absolutely absurd and inflammatory personal allegations. From what I understand the motivation and credibility of the person making the allegations is highly suspect. This kind of personal and unsubstantiated attack from a person with nothing to lose is what deters most people from participating in government, and the fact The Boston Globe is legitimizing such actions is reprehensible. The story is grossly unfair to me, my family, friends, and the town. I will have no further comment."

The two sisters, who worked together for at least two years in the offices shared by the town manager and Board of Selectmen in the Memorial Building, also challenged the account Karen Potter, 27, described the accusations in an e-mailed statement as "either very exaggerated or totally untrue. . . . I find it disturbing that my brother-in-law sees the need to . . . publicly embarrass her friends, family, and coworkers with unfounded allegations."

In a phone interview, Allison Potter, who now lives in Holliston, said, "You've got to be kidding me. It's not really anybody's business." She called her husband's accusations "blatant lies that are intended to hurt me and anyone associated with me."

A spokeswoman for the state ethics commission said agency policy prohibits her from confirming or denying any complaints or investigations.

In a copy of the complaint obtained by the Globe, Levenson said he personally witnessed the strip poker game last September that " culminated in the complete disrobing of Ms. Karen Potter. Mr. King did not attempt to excuse himself from said game or situation."

"It's all true," said Levenson, 46, who is married to Allison Potter, 30. "It may not be illegal, but it's unethical." Allison Potter and Levenson have been separated since January.

Levenson, who grew up in Framingham and now lives in Woonsocket, R.I., with the couple's two children, said in a phone interview that the incident occurred on a Friday night with several of Karen Potter's friends at her parents' house in Holliston.

In the complaint, Levenson said he prevented his wife from participating in the strip poker game and contends that his wife's subsequent layoff was related to that decision. "Ms. Karen Potter has subsequently been awarded a new position with corresponding raise; Ms. Allison Potter has subsequently been laid off," the complaint said.

Town officials said the reorganization of King's office was the result of budget cuts. As of July 1, Karen Potter, who had been administrative assistant to the town manager, took on additional responsibilities and received a raise, boosting her salary from $40,292 to $51,236, according to chief financial officer Robert Addelson. Allison Potter's $53,629 job as assistant to the town manager was eliminated and she now works part time taking minutes for the selectmen's meeting, earning about $7,500.

Under state ethics law, there are restrictions on siblings supervising each other if there is a financial interest at stake. King had no comment on Levenson's contention that one sister supervised the other.

Levenson's complaint also alleges that King, who has served as town manager since 1999, "held continual push-up contests with these two Potter sisters. These contests have occurred in Mr. King's office during working hours. One such contest culminated in the awarding to my wife by Mr. King one bottle of Grey Goose vodka, which she brought home and related the events surrounding its acquisition."

Framingham Police Chief Steve Carl said that on one occasion last August, he participated in a push-up competition with Karen Potter just before 4 p.m.

Carl said he had finished his workday at the police station and had stopped by the selectmen's office in the Memorial Building. He said he was discussing female athletes with Potter when she challenged him to a push-up contest. King was in his own office, which is attached to the selectmen's office, but had not ordered the competition or awarded any prizes, Carl said. The police chief said King did not participate but was aware of the contest. King had no comment.

"If there are other push-up contests going on, I'm not sure, and I haven't been invited to them," the police chief said.

Two of five selectmen contacted by the Globe have raised concerns about the truthfulness of Levenson's accusations. But even those questioning the complaint said they want to receive more information from King, 43, who rose from library trustee to town clerk to town manager of Framingham over the past two decades. King is expected to have his annual public review later this month.

"It's rather shocking," Selectwoman Esther Hopkins said of the allegations.

If any of the accusations are true, Hopkins said, she was most disturbed by the push-up contests that are said to have occurred in municipal buildings and involved municipal employees. Hopkins said she didn't think King, whom she described as a good leader, had the time, or inclination, for that sort of activity.

She said she plans to meet with King to discuss the matter.

Allison Potter and Levenson were involved in a custody dispute for several months, but worked out an agreement earlier this summer, according to records in Providence Family Court. Allison Potter has weekday and weekend visitation rights.

Since the couple separated in January, Woonsocket Police have responded to complaints involving them twice.

In both cases, records show, there was no physical confrontation, and there is no record of a restraining order.

In custody documents filed in the Providence court, however, Allison Potter said she had removed herself from the couple's house in Woonsocket because Levenson referred to her "in profane and degrading terms, and did, on one occasion, forcibly throw one of the children's full dinner plates against the living room wall. " Potter said Levenson "on one occasion" physically assaulted her by "shoving her from the premises when she attempted to enter for purposes of hugging her children goodbye subsequent to the exercise of visitation with the children."

Levenson acknowledges that he threw a dish at the wall but denies shoving his wife.

Last week, Potter filed a motion ordering Levenson to find employment. He had worked as a carpenter until 2001, when he suffered a knee injury. He has been unemployed since then, according to court documents.

Levenson, who stays at home and takes care of his children, says he is looking for a formal day care job.

Last Tuesday, in an e-mail to the Board of Selectmen obtained by the Globe, King said the allegations "are among stories and rumors that I have heard about for two months - I do not intend to lower myself to the level of defending specific personal allegations or it will be all I end up doing."

Ginger Esty, vice chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen and a vocal critic of King, said she would not want the town manager to be involved in such "totally inappropriate behavior" that she added could expose Framingham to all sorts of lawsuits.

Selectman Chris Ross said it seems "a bit odd" that the complaint has come forward at a time when the board is evaluating the town manager's job performance.

"I don't have any reason to believe what's alleged happened," Ross said.


__________________

George King Resigns
October 9, 2005
by Deb Cleveland, Framingham.com
http://www.framingham.com/news/tag/george-p-king/


Framingham's Town Manager, George King resigned from his position to accept a job as Assistant Superintendent of Schools for the Nashoba Regional School District, which provides K-12 education for the Towns of Lancaster, Bolton and Stow. Below is his letter of resignation that he posted online:


From: George P. King, Jr.
Sent: Friday, October 07, 2005 10:08 AM
To: ALL

Subject:

Last evening I accepted the position of Assistant Superintendent of Schools for the Nashoba Regional School District, which provides K-12 education for the Towns of Lancaster, Bolton and Stow. Consequently, pending the successful resolution of contract issues with Nashoba and

Framingham, I will be leaving my position of Town Manager after nearly seven years.

Clearly this is a bittersweet moment for me. The new opportunity represents a significant career track shift that allows me to pursue a path that has always interested me. The Nashoba District is a progressive and dynamic school system, one that I am fortune to join.

Leaving Framingham, the Town that I was born and educated in, is of course very difficult. The people who work for this community and the services they provide so capably and professionally to the residents are second to none and I will greatly miss that interaction. I offer my sincere thanks to each and every one of you for your efforts on behalf of the Town.

I am proud of the successes achieved during the last six and one half years. Our financial foundation has been stabilized despite the economic hardships that have been faced. We continue to provide first rate services despite budget constraints. I will miss the collaboration on continuing those efforts but I am very confident they will continue and prosper.

As the details of this transition emerge I will keep you informed.

Again thank you for your ongoing support.

George King