Burgess Recall Committee seeks ethics probe
Click here for original article in July 6, 2018 in the Randolph Herald
A group of citizens seeking to recall Town Councilor James Burgess is calling for an ethics investigation based on records they said they received from the town that they allege shows abuse of power by the councilor.
The Committee to Recall Jim Burgess was organized a few months ago after Burgess was arrested in February on charges of methamphetamine possession and conspiracy to distribute. Burgess has refused the committee’s push for him to step down from his town council position. A recall effort is underway by the committee.
According to a press release sent to the Randolph Herald, the committee filed a public records request through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on May 28 to Town Clerk Brian Howard seeking alleged documents related to Burgess, including “the town council clerk blocking contact from Councilor Burgess after harassment;” an abuse of power complaint against Burgess filed by former Councilor Paul Meoni; Burgess’ removal as a member of the conservation commission; Burgess’ complaint against fellow town councilor Natacha Clerger.
The committee also requested alleged documents related to Burgess’ record as a town and Dedham sheriff’s office employee.
In a June 8 letter to the committee, Howard responded to the records request. Howard stated that some of the documents requested fall under the state personnel and privacy act that prohibits public release. Howard said the town had no documents related to the committee’s claim about Burgess’ record at the Dedham sheriff’s office.
Howard did release documents pertaining to an email chain from Burgess about Meoni that Howard stated had been previously publicly circulated and documents about Burgess’ removal from the conservation commission. Also released was a letter Howard stated was addressed to the town council regarding Burgess’s accusations about a fellow councilor as well as the town’s drug testing policy.
The committee also has filed an appeal to the state of the town’s refusal to release two emails related to the town council clerk’s harassment accusation against Burgess. The committee also called for an investigation into why Burgess is allowed to attend conservation commission meetings “in a position of authority” after his dismissal from the panel and why he was not terminated from his other town positions.
According to the press release, the committee is also seeking an investigation by the town council if Burgess reported to work under the influence.
Committee member Jesse Gordon said the FOIA process is the “people’s subpoena.”
“It’s the only method to force the town government to publicly acknowledge the existence of documents,” he said.
Dave Harris, an organizer of the recall effort, said that documents town council should publicly investigate Burgess’ actions and that a recall election should be held in November to remove Burgess from the council.
“Elected public officials who violate the public trust should be held accountable,” he said.
In an email response to the Herald, Burgess refuted the committee’s allegations and actions. He stated that just because a public request for records is made doesn’t mean they actually exist.
“Mr. Gordon and Mr. Harris have already been told by the State Ethics Commission that many of these documents don’t exist and a governmental body is not just going to make up a document because they think they should,” Burgess stated. “The Recall Committee wants you to believe that by calling for an ethics investigation, one is warranted. Well, that simply is not true. The recall committee has asked for the Council President (Arthur Goldstein) to expand the definition of the word ethics, because they acknowledge in their own documents that when they have gone to the state, the state says that no ethics violation exists. So what do they do when the truth does not fit their narrative? They try to change the definition. Sorry, that’s not how this works. We believe that the public sees right through this.”
Burgess denied there was any threat of retaliation to Meoni or harassment of the town council clerk. He also refuted the committee’s charge that he was under the influence as a public official when reporting for work.
Burgess said that he has the right to attend conservation commission meetings, since they are public meetings. He also said that he agreed to being dismissed from the commission and at a recent meeting requested that a replacement be appointed to fill his vacancy.
Burgess said that the committee’s actions against him are baseless and asked that the citizens of Randolph not to pass judgment until the facts about his case come out in court. He accused the committee of “adding to the divisiveness and tension in our town.”
“Where does this end?” Burgess asked. “Are our politics filled with such vitriol that we will believe anything someone says, and even worse, will we allow them to just say it?”
|Committee to Elect Jesse Gordon, 52 West St, Randolph MA 02368|
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