In an average year, the Brookfield Board of Ethics handles between two to four ethics complaints, most often breaches that are unintentional and require minor sanctions.
Since the November election, this board has been bombarded with complaints; as of this week they will have been asked to consider a dozen complaints, some related to the same individual and offense and some others.
The Board of Ethics will be meeting again at noon Tuesday in Room 129 to continue the investigation of one complaint and accept and consider three more. Their agenda includes public comment at the beginning of the meeting. They will have some public business, and then will have their investigatory conversations in a closed-door session. The only public information to be dissemminated will be if they deem there is probable cause for any of the complaints to warrant a formal hearing. At that stage, the complaint, and individual who is the source of the complaint, must be revealed.
The nature of these latest complaints has generated some public speculation, particularly as the current Board of Finance has been considering financial management concerns related to both town and school leaders. Whether these complaints are related or not, no one can yet say.
What the ethics board does want the public to understand, and public comment is allowed at the beginning of their meetings, is that they are not able to disclose any information unless the investigation deemds there is probable cause for a formal hearing. At that time, the complaint and individual who is the souce of the complaint is revealed.
Of the prior complaints, only one proceeded toward a formal hearing that was then cancelled when the individual, Greg Beck, a town dispatcher and former Board of Education, resigned his board seat, the action requested by both women who filed official complaints. The complaints against him stemmed from a Facebook post related to the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings that many in the area felt was inappropriate. He apologized, and then opted to resign his elected seat.
Former First Selectman Bill Davidson, now a selectman who is unaffiliated but ran on the Democratic ticket, was also the subject of a complaint after the election; the commission found no probable cause to pursue complaint related to improperly taking a political campaign sign on election day. But he opted to make it public.
Republican Bill Tinsley is believed to have also been the subject of four dismissed complaints related to criminal allegations made against him in Vermont.
After the election, Tinsley plead no contest to a misdemeanor larceny charge that was reduced from a felony charge of embezzlement. The conditions of his plea included restitution, and the ability for the matter to be expunged in 11 months.
As no formal hearing was held on any of those complaints, the contents remain confidential. Despite requests to make them public, Tinsley opted to make no comment, citing the charter’s call for confidentiality.