Saying it is no longer relevant since he will soon be leaving city government, Police Chief Margaret Ackley dropped an ethics complaint against City Councilor Michael Buscetto III on Wednesday.
The Board of Ethics was scheduled to begin hearings on the complaint following their finding of probable cause in the matter. Ackley’s attorney, Shelley Graves, said in an e-mail to Board of Ethics Chairman K. Robert Lewis on Tuesday evening, noting that Buscetto will no longer be a city councilor after Dec. 5 due to an unsuccessful mayoral bid. Buscetto, running a write-in campaign, had 1,153 votes but .
“Chief Ackley has also received the assurances of the law director that Councilor Buscetto will not be involved in any further council discussions or action concerning her legal claim between now and the end of Mr. Buscetto's term on the council,” Graves said in the e-mail. “As the scheduled ethics hearing is narrowly limited in scope to the propriety of recusal, the issue would appear to be moot and we no longer have a compelling reason to continue forward with the complaint. As a result, it is hereby withdrawn.”
The e-mail was also sent to the other six members of the City Council, Law Director Thomas Londregan, City Manager Denise Rose, Buscetto’s attorney Kelly Reardon, and Board of Ethics counsel Edward Cassella. The five members of the board present voted unanimously to accept the withdrawal.
Ackley met with the in August to discuss a retirement agreement in which she would step down as chief on Jan. 2 and give up accrued compensatory time in exchange for benefits such as an increased pension and having the city pay half of her health insurance until age 65. During these meetings, Buscetto refused to recuse himself as requested by Graves.
On Aug. 24, Ackley publicly and seeking to undermine her authority in the . According to correspondence between Graves and the City Council, Ackley’s concerns included “issues and happenings that are tantamount to a hostile working environment” as well as incidents and issues that “provide a legal basis for the bringing of a lawsuit by Chief Ackley against the city for gender discrimination and harassment.”
On Sept. 29, the board to further investigate Ackley’s claims that Buscetto twice violated the standards of conduct section and committed one violation each of the conflict of interest section and the confidential information section of the Code of Ethics. Reardon argued earlier this month that the board and that four members had a conflict of interest in the matter.
Reardon said she was prepared for the possibility of the board deciding to continue the hearing despite Ackley’s request.
“I think that Mr. Buscetto will be pleased that this whole matter was resolved favorably for him,” said Reardon.
However, Reardon also said she considered it “fishy to say the least” that the withdrawal occurred a week after the election. She said the timing “obviously demonstrated that this was all about politics and making sure Mr. Buscetto was not elected mayor.”
Board of Ethics member Eunice Waller said was disappointed that Buscetto did not appear in person before the committee.
“I just think it’s a one-sided thing, and I haven’t heard how he feels,” she said. “He should have appeared before us.”
Lewis said he felt the board exercised proper oversight and fulfilled their obligations, including refraining from public discussion about the case. He said subpoenas had been issued to Londregan and City Council members for the hearing, and requests had been made for recordings of the hearings.
“We are confident that the board proceeded according to the Code [of Ethics],” said Lewis.
Lewis said the circumstances of this matter demonstrate a need for an update to the code. He said that “if somebody wants to withdraw, you have to let them withdraw,” but the code currently does not stipulate that this is allowed prior to a hearing.
Ackley’s retirement agreement includes a clause allowing her to rescind the agreement within 21 days of its acceptance or between Dec. 15 and 31. Finizio has said , but neither she nor Finizio have said whether she has made a decision on the matter.
Ackley and Buscetto were not available for comment on Wednesday evening.
Police Chief Margaret Ackley has dropped an ethics complaint against City Councilor Michael Buscetto, saying the complaint is no longer relevant since Buscetto will not be part of the new municipal government.
K. Robert Lewis, the chairman of the Board of Ethics, received the request to drop the complaint on Tuesday. The board, which was meeting on Wednesday evening to begin hearings in the procedure after in the matter, agreed to the request.
Buscetto, who has been on the City Council since 2007, ran for the mayor's office in this month's election as a write-in candidate but . Buscetto's term in the council ends on Dec. 5.
"The issue would appear to be moot, and we no longer have a compelling reason to continue forward with the complaint," said Ackley's attorney, Shelley Graves, in an e-mail to Lewis.
A full story will be posted shortly.