Scarborough councilor cleared of ethics charges
SCARBOROUGH — After an hour-long closed-door meeting Wednesday, town councilors dropped ethics charges against Councilor Richard Sullivan.
Sullivan was accused of failing to disclose a conflict of interest.
"I'm glad to have my good name cleared," Sullivan said after the meeting. "The Sullivan name got dragged through the mud."
The charges were made by Councilors Carol Rancourt and Karen D'Andrea, who claimed that Sullivan, per council rules, should have disclosed a $40,000 contract his brother, Dan Sullivan, holds with the town for mowing and landscaping.
Town rules require councilors to file disclosure statements if they or any family member earns more than $1,000 per year from the town. Violation of the disclosure rule could have led to censure.
The allegations were brought last month during debate over the town's organic pest management policy, which Sullivan, who is also a landscaper, unsuccessfully tried to overturn.
D'Andrea, Rancourt and several residents said the relationship between the town Dan Sullivan, who is not hired to do pesticide spraying in town, amounted to a conflict of interest for Sullivan.
Sullivan said he was unaware of the disclosure requirement, that he barely speaks with his brother, and had no idea about the contract until the complaint was filed.
Sullivan also pointed out, correctly, that no councilor had ever filed a disclosure since the rule was adopted in 2009. Last month, after charges were aired against Sullivan, every councilor complied with the requirement.
On Wednesday, after the council reconvened in public, Sullivan was not allowed to vote on the charges, nor were D'Andrea or Rancourt. The remaining four councilors all voted to clear Sullivan, but said they had been instructed by their lawyer not to discuss the deliberations held in executive session.
D'Andrea obeyed the gag order, but offered her thoughts on the council's decision.
"I think they were wrong," she said. "I still believe Councilor Rancourt and I were dutiful in our reporting of the violations."
In other business Wednesday, councilors approved zoning changes aimed at attracting more business to the Haigis Parkway area.
The changes, which were sent to the Planning Board for further review, would make the district more flexible in terms of allowed uses and streamline the review process for new development.
The changes include explicitly allowing development of medical and research facilities, light manufacturing, educational uses, health clubs, places of assembly and small-scale energy facilities, in addition to the mostly office-space uses currently allowed.
They also would allow development similar to the Cabela's area along the parkway from Payne Road to Interstate 95, near Exit 42.
Councilors also relaxed the rules for obtaining mass gathering permits, such as those necessary for the Waterfront Concerts series scheduled at Scarborough Downs.
The council removed a limit on the number of such permits allowed in one year, and created a 50 percent discount in the permit fee for "similar events" using "the same safety, logistical, and operational plans in any given calendar year."