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The Board of Ethics is a five person body, its members elected by the Representative Town Meeting, which receives and investigates complaints about Town officials, employees and appointees who may have violated the Town’s Code of Ethics.
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As detailed in the Town charter, the Code of Ethics lists a handful of behaviors which are considered unethical. The list is not comprehensive and is open to interpretation by the Board of Ethics under advice of legal counsel.
Anyone can file a complaint using the form found on the Town website which should then be filed with the Town Clerk. Complaints may NOT be filed anonymously. The Board of Ethics may also initiate its own complaint. Download the Board of Ethics Complaint Form (PDF).
The Board will “promptly” hold a meeting to hear from the complainant. But to protect the accused, pending its initial investigation, the Board first meets in “executive session” (closed to the public) to hear the details of the complaint.
If the Board believes the complaint warrants further investigation it may hold further closed hearings including testimony from the complainant, the accused and other witnesses. The Board also has subpoena power.
After these preliminary hearings the Board may vote to decline to hear the case further. Or it may move to public sessions, starting anew to hear the complaint and testimony.
After hearing the evidence in public session the Board has 35 days to render its opinion and deliver it in writing to the Board of Selectmen (or Education) with copies to the affected parties.
The Board of Ethics has no power to censure, issue fines or otherwise penalize the accused.
The Board also accepts requests for “advisory opinions”, when asked, from any Town official, employee, appointee etc. who wants to know if a certain issue they are engaged with might violate the Town’s Code of Ethics before they act.
Request forms for Advisory Opinions are also available on the Town website. Download the Board of Ethics of Complaint Form (PDF).