To the Editor;
On April 20, 2023, The Mattapoisett Select Board met with the Town’s Finance Committee to review, among many items, an Article on the Warrant for Town Meeting on May 8, 2023 addressing elected officers’ compensation. One of those Elected Officers who has requested a raise in their yearly salary from $80,000 to $87,500 is Highway Surveyor Garrett Bauer, while the other elected officer is Town Clerk Catherine Heuberger. Garrett Bauer is Select Board member Jodi Bauer’s son and Catherine Heuberger is Jodi Bauer’s cousin, by marriage.
Mass G.L. c 268A, specifically Sections 19 and 23(b)(2) & (3) apply to the conduct of elected officials in the Commonwealth, which includes elected Select Board members such as Ms. Bauer. It holds, in pertinent part, that a municipal employee may not participate in any particular matter in which she or a member of her immediate family (parents, children, siblings, spouse, and spouse’s parents, children, and siblings) has a financial interest. She also may not participate in any particular matter in which a prospective employer, or a business organization of which she is a director, officer, trustee, or employee has a financial interest. Participation includes discussing as well as voting on a matter, and delegating a matter to someone else.
The law goes on to state that a “financial interest” may create a conflict of interest whether it is large or small, and positive or negative. In other words, it does not matter if a lot of money is involved or only a little. It also does not matter if you are putting money into your pocket or taking it out. If you, your immediate family, your business, or your employer have or has a financial interest in a matter, you may not participate. The financial interest must be direct and immediate or reasonably foreseeable to create a conflict. Financial interests which are remote, speculative or not sufficiently identifiable do not create conflicts.
During this part of the meeting, not only did Jodi Bauer actively participate in discussions concerning a matter regarding a family member’s financial interest – Garrett Bauer’s requested salary increase – she openly advocated on his behalf while threatening that if Mr. Bauer did not receive the requested raise, he would leave the Town’s employ and the Town would be in a bind because only he and one other employee held a particular type of license to operate a piece of machinery; and that other employee, whom she happened to personally name in the meeting, would be going on a medical leave, thereby divulging confidential medical information about a Town employee. One must query how Ms. Bauer learned of this confidential medical information of another Town employee as a Select Board member but the fact that she lacked the ability to recognize the legal ramifications of her conduct should be concerning to all Mattapoisett voters. Moreover, when Ms. Bauer advocated on behalf of her son, was she really acting in the Town’s best interests or her son’s? The Town deserves an answer to this question.
Ms. Bauer’s transgressions did not end at her participation in the discussion over her son’s salary. They continued with her refusal to abstain from voting on a matter in which her son had a direct and significant financial interest, and she proceeded to record what I would assert is an illegal and illegitimate on the record vote on the matter on April 20, 2023.
In closing, this is not meant as a negative commentary on Mr. Bauer’s job performance nor it is intended to impugn the validity of Mr. Bauer’s request. In agreement with Mr. McAllister, Mr. Collyer and Mr. Lorenco, since Mr. Bauer was elected as Highway Surveyor, we as residents have experienced an improvement in the quality of the services our Highway Department provides and we thank him for that. However, as an elected Select Board member of this Town, Jodi Bauer must adhere to the conflict of interest laws that apply to all elected officials of the Commonwealth. On April 20, 2023, she fell very short in a number of respects. I submit the remedy should be that the money be appropriated for the requested raises, but tabled at Town Meeting until a new, legal vote is taken by the Select Board publicly reflecting Ms. Bauer’s recusal from discussions about and abstention from voting on the recommended raises.
Nicki Demakis, Mattapoisett
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