EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 30, 2014

Groveland officialfaces ethics charge

Gorski's conflict-of-interest hearing begins today

By Shawn Regan
sregan@eagletribune.com

---- — GROVELAND — The state is holding a hearing today on allegations that Selectman Elizabeth Gorski violated conflict-of-interest laws by using her elected position to try to get her police officer son restored to active duty.

Her efforts allegedly came after the town’s police chief placed Gorski’s son on paid administrative leave in November 2011.

A 2013 report by the state Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division also alleges that Gorski threatened the employment of police Chief Robert Kirmelewicz and Deputy Chief Jeffrey Gillen if they did not restore her son, patrolman Eric Gorski, to active duty.

Eric Gorski, a Groveland police officer since 1997, returned to work from sick leave in July 2012. He is currently one of nine full-time officers in the department.

Kirmelewicz has declined comment on the case, but said he, Gillen and five other Groveland officers have been called to testify at today’s hearing, scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the commission’s Ashburton Place office in Boston. Additional hearing dates have been scheduled for Friday and Monday at the Statehouse.

Gorski has about a year remaining in her fifth consecutive three-year term on the town’s Board of Selectmen.

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

The enforcement division’s March 2013 ruling, essentially a charging document, said Gorski “called and visited (Gillen) to discuss her son’s situation, indicating she wanted the deputy chief to have her son restored to active duty.” One of those conversations took place while Gillen was at a local restaurant, the ruling said.

“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 selectman,” the ruling said.

In February 2012, Gorski’s son was taken off paid administrative leave and placed on sick leave, requiring him to use accrued sick time to continue getting paid, the ruling said.

While he was on both administrative leave and sick leave, Eric Gorski, who joined the department in 1997, was not eligible to earn overtime pay or work private traffic details. Town officials have declined to say why Eric Gorski was suspended with pay in 2011 and then placed on sick leave in February 2012. According to the Ethics Commission, Kirmelewicz restored the patrolman to active duty in July 2012.

The Ethic’s Commission’s enforcement division ruling alleges Gorski expressed her displeasure about her son being on administrative leave several times to the other two members of the Board of Selectmen — Donald Greaney and William 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 enforcement division’s decision said.

According to the decision, during a secret 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 selectman called her and invited her to the meeting.

“When Gorski arrived at the meeting she expressed her negative feelings to Chief Kirmelewicz about his decisions he had made regarding her son,” the decision said. “The chief, in turn, told Gorski his concerns about her son. Chief Kirmelewicz asked Gorski, ‘Why do you want to 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, the enforcement division’s ruling said.

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