Five years ago, WHAV’s audio was banned on Groveland Community Television after then-Open Mike Show host Jack Bevelaqua questioned abuse of power in the town.
Groveland Selectwoman Elizabeth Gorski has been ordered to pay a $2,500 fine for “using or attempting to use her official position to secure for herself or others unwarranted privileges which are of substantial value.” Gorski previously served as an aide to former Senator James P. Jajuga who was also fined $2,500 this year for late disclosure of his drug lobbying work.
The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission issued the Decision and Order following a public hearing regarding allegations that Gorski violated the state’s conflict of interest law by taking certain actions after Chief of Police Robert Kirmelewicz placed her son, a Groveland Police officer, on administrative leave.
In its decision, the commission found that Gorski committed a single violation by, on one occasion, threatening negative employment action against the chief and deputy chief of police. The commission, however, ruled its enforcement division failed to prove any of its other claims against Gorski.
Commissioners agreed with Gorski the enforcement division made an “egregious” error by failing to produce certain documents or identify their existence to the hearing officer. Such failure “is particularly troublesome if the information withheld is exculpatory or unfavorable to petitioner’s case, as it is in this case.” However, because the allegations to which those documents related were ultimately not proven, the commission decided Gorski’s motion to dismiss was moot.
The commission found Gorski improperly used her position as a selectman in an attempt to secure her son’s return to active duty when she spoke with Deputy Chief Jeffrey Gillen during a chance meeting in a Georgetown restaurant Jan. 26, 2012. During that conversation, Gorski discussed her son’s leave and noted the deputy chief and chief’s employment contracts were coming up for renewal. Although Gorski previously had abstained in her position as Selectman from acting on police matters, during this encounter, she threatened to take negative action with regard to their contracts.
Gorski has 30 days to pay the civil penalty or file an appeal in superior court.
Not Gorski’s First Power Abuse Controversy
It was not Gorski’s first controversy over alleged abuse of power. The selectwoman was widely believed to have been the key figure behind banning WHAV on Groveland’s public access television station.
In 2009, Groveland public access television banned WHAV’s audio from its system because of, what Groveland government officials called, the reporting of “lots of unflattering things.” The disagreement occurred when then-Open Mike Show host Jack Bevelaqua voiced his concern about Groveland’s approval of septic systems near Johnson’s Pond, Haverhill’s backup drinking water source.
Even though WHAV presented an alternative view from Groveland Selectman William Darke, WHAV remains banned on the town’s TV station.