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Not a vendetta, selectman says; Town reversed cost-cutting.

Byline: Steven H. Foskett Jr.

DOUGLAS - Selectman John P. Bombara yesterday denied that his persistence in seeking reduced hours for the building inspector has anything to do with past interactions with Building Inspector Adelle M. Reynolds.

During divisive debate in recent weeks over an April 1 vote by the Board of Selectmen to reduce Ms. Reynolds' hours from 35 to 20, Mr. Bombara's critics have alleged he pushed the vote in

a vendetta against Ms. Reynolds over a septic tank issue he had when building his Northwest Main Street home.

Mr. Bombara said yesterday that aside from a brief correspondence backing up a town counsel opinion, he has not been contacted by the state Ethics Commission, nor has he been informed of any investigation. He said political enemies are trying to bring him down.

"People are trying to dig up something on me," he said, adding that he does not believe voting on the status of the building inspector has been a conflict of interest, either in his capacity as a member of the Finance Committee or the Board of Selectmen. Mr. Bombara and two other selectmen - Michael D. Hughes and Scott J. Medeiros - voted April 1 to reduce Ms. Reynolds' hours to fall in line with a downturn in permit traffic, and to recommend the savings be funneled to the Fire Department.

Paula A. Brouillette and Mitchell S. Cohen voted against the reduction, and the annual town meeting Monday voted to continue to finance a full-time building inspector position. Selectmen voted Tuesday to increase Ms. Reynolds' hours back to full-time status. Ms. Cohen and Ms. Brouillette voted for the motion; Mr. Hughes, Mr. Bombara and Mr. Medeiros abstained, saying they wanted more time before addressing the issue again.

Mr. Bombara filed a disclosure May 1 that lays out his past dealings with Ms. Reynolds, although the filing came a month after he voted to reduce Ms. Reynolds' hours and more than two weeks after he voted against the town budget as a member of the Finance Committee.

"I have had past interactions with the Building Inspector," the letter, signed by Mr. Bombara, said.

His interactions with Ms. Reynolds initially involved the footprint of the house he was building on Northwest Main Street; as part of moving the footprint of the house, he was also required to move the septic tanks on the property. The letter stated that he complied with the orders and received an occupancy permit. He began building a retaining wall in his driveway in September, and again Ms. Reynolds became involved. Responding to a complaint about the wall, she referred him to the Board of Health. While investigating the complaint, the Board of Health determined that the septic tanks required inspection. The contractor who moved the tanks was reprimanded for not having the tanks inspected when they were initially moved, the letter stated.

The letter stated that the disclosure was necessary to prevent municipal employees from doing anything that "would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that any person can improperly influence or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties, or that he is likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship, rank, position, or undue influence of any party or person."

The law also states that it would not be a conflict of interest if the employee discloses the facts that would otherwise lead someone to conclude that a conflict existed. Mr. Bombara said that is why he made the May 1 disclosure.

His disclosure was a response to advice provided to him in an April 14 letter from the town's law firm, Kopelman & Paige. That letter concluded that while Mr. Bombara did not seem to have a financial conflict of interest in the matter, he should still file the disclosure to avoid the appearance of a conflict.

Mr. Bombara yesterday discounted the suggestion that he filed the disclosure only after he was urged by town counsel to do so, and that he should have filed it before taking votes on the building inspector position. He said he does not have a personal issue with Ms. Reynolds, and said the bulk of his interactions with her came in 2005 when he was first ordered to move the septic tanks.

"The latest septic inspection issue came up in September," said Mr. Bombara, who was elected to the Board of Selectmen last May. "That's why I didn't file anything right away."

He said he does not plan to back down from his view that the building inspector's position should be part time, and said he plans to revisit the issue.

Ms. Reynolds declined to say if she felt his push to reduce her hours was a personal vendetta. She said she did not see how discussing it would help her case.

"I just want to do my job," Ms. Reynolds said.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 10, 2008
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