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Candidate questions raised.

Byline: Kim Ring

HARDWICK - One candidate for the Board of Health said last night he'll spend today researching whether he'll be eligible to vote on landfill-related issues if he's elected.

Marcelino "Tex" Sarabia will challenge recently appointed health board member Anne L. Rylestone for a two-year seat in the April 9 election.

He said last night he thought he'd be able to vote, but after hearing that a question about a possible conflict of interest had been raised, Mr. Sarabia said he'd check into the matter.

"I think that I would, but with all this legal stuff, I have no idea," he said. "I'll check into it."

Lynne Pledger asked the Board of Health last night if it would research whether Mr. Sarabia and Reginald Lang, a former member of the board whose name appeared on literature mailed by Casella Waste Systems, Inc., would be allowed to vote on landfill issues.

Casella operates the Hardwick Landfill Inc., in the so-called West part of town. The landfill closed weeks ago, after voters turned down a request to rezone the land it's on.

Mr. Lang is running against Dr. Lisa Gill, who was named to fill his seat after he resigned last year, citing concerns over potential lawsuits related to the board's stance on the landfill. Mr. Lang said last night he did not want to comment on Ms. Pledger's questions.

Ms. Pledger said she feared that if the two men were elected and unable to vote, the Board of Health would be "disabled, hamstrung."

She said she believes voters would want to know whether the men could vote before they go to the polls.

But Town Counsel Jonathan Silverstein of Kopelman & Paige said he would not issue a ruling unless selectmen request it. He said it is atypical to seek an opinion from counsel or the state Ethics Commission for a situation that does not yet exist.

"We don't often see requests for ethics for prospective candidates," he said.

A similar situation arose in 2005 when voters elected Deanna L. Talbot as selectman. Ms. Talbot, a landfill opponent, found herself unable to vote on landfill issues because her name appeared on the host community agreement signed by the town and Casella.

According to the agreement, some residents living within a certain distance of the landfill could be eligible to have their homes purchased by Casella at a guaranteed price.

Ms. Pledger said Mr. Sarabia's name also appears on the agreement.

"I don't know how these things would affect the candidacy of these two candidates," she said.

Mr. Sarabia, who served on the Board of Health several years ago, said he will try to find out.

"I would probably ask the town's lawyers to rule on that," he said.

NAME: HARDWICK BOARD OF HEALTH
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 23, 2007
Words:462
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