The strategy of the Board of Selectmen in dealing with multiple ethics violations by former colleague Phil Eliopoulos and Town Manager Paul Cohen has become clear.
They want to debate whether facts are facts.
Jon Kurland has taken the lead, stating in a number of public forums that no ethics violations occurred while the Eliopoulos family bought the Village Green out from under the town. Mr. Kurland denies that Paul Cohen has lied to the Selectmen, and Phil Eliopoulos has also lied to them, at multiple meetings and public hearings. Yet it’s clear from the written records and video recording of public meetings that Cohen’s story in August of 2009 and his story today – although different – are both false.
In his most recent public letter, Mr. Kurland denies the facts surrounding the case, and then states that since the Ethics Commission is not actively investigating, there must not be any ethics violations. Therefore, he doesn’t need to report anything to the Ethics Commission. Mr. Kurland is a trained lawyer, and knows that this is circular reasoning. Yet he foists it on us as though it is a rationale to shirk his responsibility to uphold the law.
Paul Cohen, in a prepared written statement which he read at the selectmen’s meeting August 24, 2009, stated unequivocally that “The town was never approached by Eastern Bank, the previous owner of the [“9 North Rd”] property, to see if the Town was interested in making a purchase.” Yet Eastern Bank’s financial officer Tom Dunn contradicted that over and over again during his deposition in January, stating that he contacted Mr. Cohen by phone multiple times. Cohen promised to check with the selectmen and call Mr. Dunn back, which he never did.
This is not conjecture. It is not anyone’s opinion. It is now established fact, and even Cohen admits it. But Jon Kurland writes that “the deposition of Tom Dunn proves Cohen did nothing improper.” That’s the exact opposite of the truth, as anyone who reads the deposition can see for themselves.
Paul Cohen again read a prepared written statement on July 26, 2010 at the selectmen’s meeting where he stated unequivocally that he told the selectman during an executive session on March 9, 2009 that Phil Eliopoulos was pursuing the purchase of “9 North Road”. However the minutes from that meeting contradict his statements. Why is no selectman questioning why the facts do not support either of his stories? Why is no selectman questioning why his stories contradict each other?
What the Tom Dunn deposition does make crystal clear, is that Paul Cohen knew that Phil Eliopoulos and his father were vying against the town for the land; and he stayed mum and kept pesky interested parties (like the Fire Station Study Committee) out of the way. Kurland didn’t even report Eliopoulos’ multiple ethics violations to the Ethics Commission, and refuses to report them to this day.
Kurland is counting on people not reading the actual deposition, but you can access it here: http://www.betterchelmsford.com/DunnDeposition2011.01.07.pdf
It is worth noting that by representing his father in 2008 in the negotiations for purchase of “9 North Road” Phil Eliopoulos, then Chairman of the Board of Selectman, was in direct violation of state ethics laws that prohibit municipal employees from taking action on any "particular matter" (issues before the Board) which would affect the personal interest of themselves or immediate family. He even voted against the town purchasing the land at the March 23, 2009 meeting. This is not “opinion” or “conjecture,” it’s recorded in meeting minutes and on video.
It’s a matter of public record that Phil Eliopoulos went on to represent Epsilon LLC in front of numerous town boards shortly after resigning as a selectman. These are clear, multiple violations of well-understood state ethics statutes. Mr. Kurland knows this – he’s a lawyer! Yet he writes that there were no violations.
Advocates for honest government have laid out a litany of ethics violations based on written records consisting of meeting minutes and sworn testimony, video recordings, and public records. That’s called “documentation,” and I’m sure Jon Kurland, as a lawyer, is familiar with the concept. It’s not an “opinion” that Phil Eliopoulos represented his father’s LLC in violation of Massachusetts ethics laws, it’s a documented fact. It’s not an “opinion” that Paul Cohen facilitated the deal to transfer the land to the Eliopoulos LLC, it’s a documented fact. And it’s documented fact that both Cohen and Eliopoulos lied about their actions afterwards, which of course are additional ethics violations.
Mr. Eliopoulos has publicly proclaimed several times that the Epsilon LLC project would “create more open space than existed at the time of the preservation restriction,” which mandates that the land must remain an open space conservation area. That was a bald-faced lie, and even Mr. Kurland took exception to it at the August 23, 2010 hearing. But now Mr. Kurland doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem that Phil lied to the BOS. Instead, he’s saying that public advocates are lying by saying that Phil lied.
Mr. Kurland and the rest of our elected officials refuse to concede the facts, because they get in the way of their lies and the interests of their cronies. Not a single selectman has supported accountability for malfeasance. Not a single selectman has supported a formal inquiry into the facts surrounding the fraudulent land deal and unlawful construction that’s obliterated our Village Green and created a storm of controversy surrounding Center Fire Station. Not a single selectman will make a simple motion to uphold the law on our behalf and bring the Preservation Restriction into Land Court for interpretation and enforcement.
You can help end the corruption here in Chelmsford by returning your recall affidavits.
Yours with best wishes and hope for the future of our town,
Roland Van Liew