NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 28, 2013

State finds selectman violated ethic laws

By Shawn Regan
Staff writer

---- — GROVELAND — An investigation by the state Ethics Commission found Selectman Elizabeth Gorski violated conflict-of-interest laws by using her position to attempt to get her son restored to active duty after police Chief Robert Kirmelewicz placed the patrolman on paid administrative leave in 2011.

The ruling, essentially a charging document, said Gorski pressured Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Gillen, her two selectman colleagues Donald Greaney and William Darke, and the president of the police union to see her son Eric Gorski restored to active duty.

The report by the Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division, released yesterday, also alleges that Gorski threatened the employment of Kirmelewicz and Gillen if they did not put her son back on the job. In an interview yesterday, Kirmelewicz acknowledged that he filed the complaint with the Ethics Commission that triggered its probe of Gorski.

“I filed the complaint because of the persecution that I was enduring as a result of trying to do the right thing,” the chief said.

The Ethics Commission has 90 days to schedule a hearing to consider the allegations and possible fines against Gorski, who was elected to her fifth consecutive three-year term on the Board of Selectmen last summer. Gorski has the right to bring a lawyer with her to the hearing to refute the allegations.

Messages left for Gorski at her home and at the selectmen’s office at Town Hall were not returned.

The investigation found that Gorski visited and called Gillen repeatedly to discuss her son’s situation, indicating she wanted Gillen to “fix it” and see her son restored to active duty.

“On a least two of those occasions, Gorski made reference to the chief’s and deputy chief’s employment contracts coming up for renewal by the Board of Selectmen,” the ruling said. In one instance, Gorski approached Gillen while he was at a Georgetown restaurant, the report said, noting this was the second time Gorski told Gillen that his contract coming up for renewal while pressuring him to “rectify the situation” regarding her son.

In January 2012, Gorski’s son was taken off paid administrative leave and placed on sick leave, requiring him to use accrued sick time to keep his paycheck coming, the report said. While he was on both administrative leave and sick leave, Eric Gorski, who joined the police department in 1997, was not eligible to earn overtime pay or work private traffic details, the report said. Kirmelewicz restored Eric Gorski to active duty last July.

Kirmelewicz said he could not discuss the circumstances that led to him initially placing Eric Gorski on paid administrative leave or his decision to modify the order to sick leave, except to say the matter was “not disciplinary in nature” and that it has been resolved.

“My primary focus is operating the police department and serving Groveland residents,” the chief said in a statement about the Ethics Commission’s case against Gorski. “Unfortunately there are times when I have to deal with distractions. I ask people to have patience and the truth will prevail.”

The commission’s enforcement division report alleges that Gorski also expressed her displeasure about her son being on administrative leave to the other two members of the Board of Selectmen — Greaney and Darke.

“She also approached the head of the police union, a police detective, while he was working a private traffic detail and asked whether he and the union were doing everything they could do regarding her son’s situation,” the report said.

According to the decision, during a private executive session selectmen’s meeting in March 2012 to discuss Kirmelewicz’s contract, Gorski again brought up the administrative action against her son and asked why Kirmelewicz was ruining her son’s “name, reputation and livelihood.” That meeting began without Gorski, but the other two selectmen called her and invited her to the meeting, the ruling said.

“When Gorski arrived at the meeting she expressed her negative feelings to Chief Kirmelewicz about decisions he had made regarding her son,” the report says. “The chief, in turn, told Gorski his concerns about her son. Chief Kirmelewicz asked Gorski, ‘Why do you want to take my job away?’ In response, Gorski asked the chief, ‘Why are you ruining my son’s name, reputation and livelihood.’ “That meeting ended without further action.

On April 27, 2012, Kirmelewicz signed a three-year contract extension without Gorski’s support. The agreement was signed by Greaney and Darke.

The Ethics Commission’s power is limited to imposing fines that are typically payable to the commission or an aggrieved party, a spokesman for the agency said. In some instances, the commission can refer cases to other agencies for criminal charges, the spokesman said.