James Judge is latest target in complaint to Mass. State Ethics Commission
TOWN HOUSE- James Judge, Kingston’s assistant assessor, confirmed rumors this afternoon that he is the latest target in a flurry of recent complaints against town officials over the past six weeks.
Judge, who also serves on the Board of Assessors, told KingstonJournal.com that he had been contacted by Katherine Gallant, a senior investigator in the enforcement division of the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission.
According to Judge, Gallant’s correspondence concerned Judge’s collection of an annual $800 elected-assessors stipend in conjunction with his collection of an annual salary from the Town of Kingston as an assistant assessor.
Origins of the complaint filed against Judge are unknown at this time.
Judge was elected to the Board of Assessors last year after defeating Peter Boncek by 45 votes, prompting a discussion about a possible conflict between his position on the Board of Assessors and his salaried position as Kingston’s assistant assessor.
Judge compared the complaint against him to a similar complaint recently filed against Selectwoman Susan Munford, who was unknowingly collecting both an $800 selectmen stipend and her salary as a Kingston Police Officer simultaneously.
“Except I’m not a selectman and I was granted status as a ‘special municipal employee,'” Judge told the Journal this afternoon.
Massachusetts General Laws specifically bar selectmen from receiving compensation from two town offices simultaneously. Munford arraigned to pay back the money, amounting to $492, via a deduction from her Kingston Police Department paycheck.
Judge said that while he does not believe he committed any violation, if he is found in any financial violation he will offer to pay back whatever sum of money to required to make good.
“That’s pretty much the whole story,” Judge said.
The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission did not return calls placed Wednesday afternoon regarding a complaint against Judge. Complaints with the ethics commission can be filed anonymously.
Judge achieved “special municipal employee” status after approval from the Kingston Selectmen last year. Selectwomen Susan Munford and Sandy MacFarlane both opposed the May 5th vote, which passed by a one-vote margin at Munford’s first meeting as an elected official. The vote allowed Judge to receive both his elected-assessor stipend and his assistant assessor salary, and remain in conformity with Massachusetts General Laws (Chapter 268a, Section 20d).
Munford voiced concern during the May 5th discussion, saying the special-municipal employee designation could “lower the bar as far as potential conflict.”
Kingston Town Counsel Jay Talerman stood next to Judge during the May 5th discussion and fielded Munford’s concerns, saying the designation would “allow [Judge] to overcome that obstacle and it does not lower the bar.”
Talerman also said that only the Board of Selectmen could decide whether or not to grant special municipal employee status to a town employee, and called the impending outcome of the May 5th vote “unchallengeable.”
Talerman added that Judge would need to give up one of his offices if he was not granted special-municipal employee status.
Before the vote to grant Judge special-municipal employee status, MacFarlane asked Judge why he did not disclose his intentions to serve both positions during his campaign saying, “I thought you were going to retire.”
The motion to grant Judge the exemption was made by Selectman Ron Gleason and seconded by Selectman Richard Arruda. Chairman Joseph Casna, Arruda and Gleason all voted in favor of allowing Judge the exemption.
Acting-Town Administrator Nancy Howlett was previously unaware of the complaint against Judge but said “many town employees and bodies are listed as ‘special municipal employee’s,'” citing the Planning Board as a town body where all sitting members are designated as special municipal employees.
Today, the Journal was provided a copy of the document approving Judge’s exemption.
The exemption document is dated for May 8, 2012, signed by Casna, and lists Judge’s $800 elected-assessor stipend as the “financial interest” in his municipal contract as a town employee.
“We’ve complied with what was required,” Howlett told the Journal on Tuesday afternoon.