Shrewsbury Planning Board Member Kevin F. Capalbo Fined $1,000 For Creating Appearance of Impropriety Law
Sought payment of wife's auto insurance deductible from developer
According to a Disposition Agreement, on October 3, 2002, Capalbo's wife's car hit a metal pipe in an unpaved parking lot owned by Cole. That evening Capalbo, who had not yet learned of the damage to his wife's car, voted to approve the Park Grove Farm subdivision, subject to 28 conditions. When Capalbo learned of the damage to the car, $883.38, he sought from Cole reimbursement for the $500 deductible of his insurance policy. Cole declined to pay the deductible and told Capalbo to sue him.
A few weeks after this conversation, when Capalbo called to discuss the issue further, Cole agreed to pay the $500 deductible. Capalbo sought payment from Cole in a letter dated November 2, 2002. In the meantime, there had been a number of complaints from neighbors regarding the work being done at the subdivision. Capalbo was aware of these complaints.
When Capalbo was unable to reach Cole by phone to inquire as to the payment status, Capalbo visited the Park Grove Farm subdivision to speak with Cole personally. Cole was not at the site. Capalbo asked the foreman to have Cole contact him.
Cole paid the $500 deductible on November 19, 2002. According to Cole, he did so because he felt that Capalbo was linking his request for payment to his role as a Planning Board member overseeing the outstanding subdivision issues. Capalbo continued to participate as a Planning Board member in Cole's subdivision without disclosing his private dealings with Cole.
Section 23(b)(3) of the conflict law prohibits a public official from knowingly or with reason to know acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that anyone can improperly influence or unduly enjoy the public employee's favor in the performance of his official duties. By continuing to participate as a Planning Board member in matters concerning the Park Grove Farm subdivision while seeking payment for damages to his wife's car from the subdivision developer, Capalbo violated § 23(b)(3).
"The conflict law is concerned with the appearance of impropriety as much as it is with actual conflicts of interest," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "While the law doesn't prohibit public officials from having private dealings with those they oversee, it does require them to accurately disclose the relevant facts or abstain."