Spruce It Up Colrain’s approval delayed by ethics concerns

  • Colrain resident Jonathan Lagreze speaks to the Selectboard Tuesday night at Colrain Central School about “Spruce It Up Colrain.” Staff Photo/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 3/25/2022 3:35:45 PM
Modified: 3/25/2022 3:34:54 PM

COLRAIN — Approval for a community cleanup event has been delayed following ethics concerns over donations that would be used to fund a portion of the event.

“Spruce It Up Colrain” is a community event that would allow for free disposal of litter, fee-free bulky waste collections and a “pay-it-forward tire disposal drive” for Colrain residents. However, the position of Jonathan Lagreze, one of the event’s organizers, as the town’s representative for the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District raised the Selectboard’s concern over solicitation of donation pledges for the tire disposal.

The event would be held at the Colrain Transfer Station on April 23, April 30, May 3 and May 7 in celebration of Earth Day and keeping the community free of litter and waste.

The Selectboard asked Lagreze to receive an opinion from the state Ethics Commission; he had not done so before Tuesday’s meeting at Colrain Central School.

“Jonathan, I have some real issues. This could put the town in a real precarious position,” said Selectboard member Michael Slowinski. “To solicit donations as a municipal employee puts us all under the microscope. I’m going to request you get a ruling from the Ethics Commission and we get it in writing.”

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Lagreze said he wrote to the Ethics Commission Wednesday morning and was waiting for a response. He said he had received donation pledges, but money has yet to change hands. He said he does not believe there are any ethics concerns because the town itself is not benefiting from the event or the pay-it-forward tire disposal.

“I don’t believe that there is any problem,” he said Wednesday. “This is benefiting the citizens of the town, not the town itself.”

If disallowed by the state Ethics Commission, Lagreze said he’ll still be able to do smaller “private Spruce It Up activities.”

Lagreze made the same point at Tuesday’s meeting, but the Selectboard emphasized the importance of being “really careful” when it comes to ethics violations.

“As Mike said, this is a wonderful project, but it has to be done right,” said Selectboard Chair Joe Kurland. “I have seen other towns in our area where someone pulls the Selectboard in front of the Ethics Commission and I want to avoid that. I want us to not only be doing the right thing, but there is no question we’re doing the right thing. We’re not shooting down your idea — we have to make sure it’s done by the book.”

Lagreze and the Selectboard continued their discussion, but Slowinski said the board would not make a decision “until we get a ruling from the Ethics Commission.”

“It takes one phone call. ... It’s not onerous, it’s not restrictive and you get really good opinions, and you can get it in writing if you need it,” Slowinski said. “Anything that’s going to involve money from outside sources, I have a real problem with until we are 100% sure.”

The Selectboard also requested a detailed plan on how the days of the event will go, which Lagreze and Highway Superintendent Scott Sullivan are working on.

Lagreze plans to present the Ethics Commission’s ruling and the event plan at the Selectboard’s next meeting on March 29 at 4:30 p.m.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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