State: No complaint with Ashfield official
ASHFIELD — The State Ethics Commission decided no further investigation was needed on whether Selectboard member Paullette M. Leukhardt acted in conflict-of-interest, by going to state Legislators on behalf of an Ashfield House resident, and giving her status as a Selectboard member.
In June, Leukhardt received an email from Ashfield House resident Deborah Nicholson asking Leukhardt to write to legislators on her behalf to obtain legal information about the Ashfield House ownership and other issues.
A few hours before the Selectboard meeting, Leukhart forwarded Nicholson’s letter, “Ashfield House Concerns for Possible Investigtation?” to four legislators, saying “If (Nicholson) had been able to obtain the answers locally, she would not have sent me this email asking for assistance.” The document was signed by Leukhardt, who listed “Ashfield Select Board member” under her name.
Leukhart brought a copy of her correspondence to the Selectboard meeting, which prompted a complaint from fellow board member Ron Coler, who wrote a memo charging that Leukhart committed an “appearance of conflict” by using her selectboard position to advance another person’s agenda, and by doing so without the advance knowledge of other board members.
In the memo, Coler asked Leukhardt to “complete a public disclosure form relative to her interest and involvement with ... the Ashfield House, along with all of its former/current owners or tenants.” Coler also threatened to bring the issue up to the State Ethics Commission “if we do not come to closure on this matter.”
However, after Chairman Thomas Carter refused to mediate between the two disgruntled board members at a July meeting, Leukhardt herself submitted all the correspondence to the Ethics Commission, and asked if there was a conflict-of-interest situation.
Katherine E. Gallant, deputy chief of investigations, sent a brief reply saying investigators conducted a careful review of the information Leukhardt submitted. “Relying on what you told us, and on any necessary follow-up investigation, we are satisfied that this matter does not require any further action on our part,” the letter said.