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Ron Sweet named Conway highway supt.

CONWAY — Ron Sweet of Academy Hill Road has been chosen to be the town’s new highway superintendent.

The Selectboard offered Sweet the job on Monday.

The long-time Conway resident replaced Robert Baker, who retired in January. Baker continues to work as fire chief.

Sweet takes on the job after working as a mechanic and heavy equipment operator with the Highway Department for three years. And since Jan. 7, Sweet has served as interim superintendent.

He beat out three other candidates and overcame a recommendation against his hiring.

The Personnel Committee originally recommended Mark Bernier of Turners Falls out of concern for Sweet’s potential conflict of interest and his lack of a GED or high school diploma, which the job required.

There was a nepotism conflict because Sweet’s son, Nicholas Sweet, works in the department as well.

Sweet, however, filed the required disclosure forms with the state Ethics Commission, which then gives the Selectboard the option to waive the conflict of interest and hire him.

The state conflict of interest law forbids a municipal employee from overseeing an immediate family member or partner who has a financial interest unless proper disclosure is made.

“As long as there is proper disclosure, which he has already done, town counsel thinks it’s OK to hire Ron Sweet,” Selectboard member John O’Rourke said.

To safeguard against any conflicts, the Selectboard would make all the financial decisions related to the younger Sweet.

“Ron will be doing the day-to-day supervision. The Selectboard will take the burden off of him in terms of any financial decision that would involve his son,” O’Rourke said.

This practice, O’Rourke said, would avoid any significant problems with the state Conflict of Interest Law.

Sweet has also completed his GED, O’Rourke said.

“The board has seriously considered the recommendation of the Personnel Committee and the reasons supporting that recommendation,” O’Rourke said.

Other factors, such as the town’s small population and Sweet’s job experience influenced the Selectboard’s decision to hire Sweet. The state makes an exception for small towns with a population under 10,000.

“The board has also considered that the town of Conway is a small town in western Massachusetts that has limited access to an extensive and experienced labor force, in general, and to individuals who would qualify for the highway superintendent position in particular,” O’Rourke said. “The board is particularly interested in hiring qualified individuals for town positions who have an interest and stake in the community of Conway.”

Sweet’s hiring leaves the town with essentially the same type of conflict that existed under Baker, whose son, Adam, also works in the highway department.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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