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Ethics Twist Postpones Finkel Decision in Weston

WESTON, Conn. – It’s back to square one for Board of Finance member David Finkel, as the Weston Board of Ethics decided Tuesday it needed to revisit his possible conflict of interest, this time with two new members.

The issue began when Finkel ran for and won a seat on the town’s finance board. Members of the Weston Democratic Town Committee said Finkel, a Republican, should not have been allowed to run because he worked as a consultant looking into the overhead costs within the Weston school system.

According to Section 9.1 of the charter, “No member or employee of any board or agency of the town shall be financially interested, or have any personal beneficial interest, either directly or indirectly, in any contract or purchase order for supplies, materials, equipment or contractual services furnished to or used by the town or any of its boards or agencies.”

The ethics board in October decided there was a conflict as long as his company had a business relationship with the town. But last month, Finkel told members of the Board of Selectmen that the matter has been resolved and he should be allowed on the finance board. First Selectman Gayle Weinstein then wrote a letter, on behalf of the selectmen, asking the ethics board to revisit the matter.

Weinstein wrote, “Mr. Finkel has made an effort to divest his business interest from the Board of Finance. I am requesting that the Weston Board of Ethics issue an advisory opinion as to whether the Code of Ethics is satisfied, and whether or not there remains a violation of Section 9.1 of the Town Charter.”

That is what the ethics board was expected to do Tuesday. But instead, board members found that they could have acted against the town’s code of ethics themselves. According to the board's Code of Ethics, “No member may serve more than six successive years and then may not serve on another two years before he/she may serve again.”

Under that clause, it was found that board members Denise Massingale-Lamb and Juan Negroni had already exceeded their six-year maximums. The two then had to resign, leaving only three members to deliberate Finkel’s fate Tuesday.

The matter was held in private executive session, closed to the public and the media. But after about 30 minutes of discussion, the ethics board came out and said it needed a full five-member board to render a decision on the Finkel matter.

“We cannot come to a unanimous decision and because of that we are going to approach the selectman about appointing two new members to our board,” said ethics board member Harriet Heller. Because the board could not decide Finkel’s case, it needed to bring in two new board members and discuss the matter all over again.  “We have to start from scratch,” Heller said.

Finkel expressed frustration after the board announced its decision. “When we meet for the third time, I’d like to make sure it’s crystal clear [there is no longer a conflict] so we can get this done once and for all.”

Although a decision has yet to be made, ethics board member Paula Savignol said she hoped the Board of Selectmen would appoint new members to the board during its Dec. 14 meeting.

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