By LISA SCAGLIOTTI
The Shelburne Ethics Committee reached a unanimous decision this week saying the chair of the Development Review Board had not violated the town’s Ethics and Conflict of Interest ordinance with a comment made nearly three years ago.
A three-page decision dated Tuesday ruled on a complaint filed Dec. 18 by Dean Pierce alleging that a statement made in March 2016 by Jeff Pauza on the Development Review Board showed he favored a project before the board prior to it getting a full examination.
Pierce is Shelburne’s Director of Planning and Zoning, although he said he filed the complaint as a private citizen. At the time of the comments cited in the complaint, Pauza was a member of the review board; he is now chair.
The comment in question referred to an application by the Shelburne Green commercial development which continues to expand and present projects before the Development Review Board. Since the complaint was filed last month, Pauza has recused himself from participating in any application discussions involving Shelburne Green.
The development is home to Fiddlehead Brewery, Folino’s pizzeria, and other food-related businesses.
Reached while traveling out of state on Tuesday, Pauza said he had not reviewed the decision in detail.
“I’d like to thank the Ethics Committee for its due diligence and work,” Pauza said. “They are a group of volunteers such as we are on the DRB.”
The Ethics Committee held a hearing on Pierce’s complaint on Jan. 9 where Pauza defended his past statement and others spoke in support of his objectivity in his role on the review board.
That testimony prevailed.
“Ultimately, the committee was persuaded by the testimony of the respondent and of other members of the DRB, that the respondent’s comments were of the type considered acceptable practice by DRB members,” the decision read. “The committee does not find that the respondent violated the ordinance.”
The committee advised that volunteer members of town boards and committees, particularly those with quasi-judicial responsibilities “must be vigilant to avoid the appearances of favoritism.”
The Ethics Committee added that it would like to work with volunteer members of boards and committees on training so that public officials’ “comments on a pending matter should not give the appearance of prejudgment or partiality.”