The subject of conflict of interest which arose in Sharon recently is something that every small town faces at one time or another.

It’s inevitable that municipal and school boards occasionally will need to make decisions that involve a relative or deal with conflicts of another nature.

One of the reasons the designers of the Sharon Home Rule Charter included a section on conflict of interest was to help protect taxpayers from city leaders who would use their positions to unethically further their own causes.

But it is often a gray area. In this case, it appears the charter committee helped to worsen an ethics situation that may affect even a city manager when eventually named.

For example, complaints have arisen that Mayor Bob Lucas, a former city firefighter, helped to negotiate a contract with the firefighters’ union, and that newly elected council President Mike Donato, another retired firefighter, could vote on it.

Whether Lucas is a former firefighter or not, he is currently the chief executive officer of the city as the full-time mayor. He should be in on the negotiations. He was elected by the people to do just that.

Remember, he’s not voting on the contracts with city personnel — that’s where council comes in. If council doesn’t want to approve any contract, members can vote it down and tell the mayor or future city manager it’s not acceptable and to go back to the negotiating table.

But as far as municipal or school board members voting on anything that may appear to be a conflict of interest, the logical way out is to abstain from voting. That avoids criticism and if the ordinance is worthwhile it should pass anyway. But every official must deal with his or her own conscience in these decisions.

That said, there needs to be a revision of the wording of the Sharon charter concerning conflict of interest. That article reads: “No elected or appointed official or employee of the city shall influence, attempt to influence or vote on the making of any contract or otherwise supervise or deal in any city matter (in) which such person has direct or indirect financial, personal or other special interest.”

If this were followed precisely, there would probably never be any decisions possible in Sharon. Doesn’t every councilman have a financial or personal interest in how much it costs to collect their garbage? Sorry, can’t vote.

Doesn’t even the city manager have a personal interest in how many people are employed in the fire department in case his or her house catches fire? Sorry, can’t negotiate that contract.

Sure we’re being facetious with those examples, but this kind of wording is open to interpretation. And we would hate to see the city constantly facing lawsuits because someone didn’t like who voted on what.

The best thing is to let the voters decide. If they don’t think someone in office is ethical and truly represents the best interests of the community as a whole, they can vote them out. The ballot box is better than any charter wording that is either too ambiguous or too specific.

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