SCARBOROUGH — The Town Council will meet behind closed doors tonight for an ethics hearing to address allegations that a councilor failed to disclose a conflict of interest.

Councilor Richard Sullivan was accused last month of violating council rules by failing to disclose a conflict of interest during a dispute over a ban on using pesticides on town property.

His proposal to loosen the ban that the council passed last fall was opposed by Councilors Karen D’Andrea and Carol Rancourt, who also raised the conflict-of-interest issue.

Sullivan’s brother, Daniel Sullivan, has a $40,000-a-year landscaping contract with the town that involves mostly mowing and does not include spraying. Town Council rules require councilors to disclose any immediate family members who receive more than $1,000 from the town.

Sullivan’s proposal for pesticides failed for technical reasons, but the conflict-of-interest issue was left to be resolved.

He said he was surprised and hurt by the allegations. “What it amounts to is a bunch of unfounded allegations made by these two disgruntled councilors,” he said. “It’s dirty Washington politics come to Scarborough.”

Sullivan had hoped to address the issue in public, but Council Chairman Ronald Ahlquist and the town attorney decided to discuss it in executive session.

Councilors can consider censure if they find that Sullivan violated the ethics code. “Removal from office is not one of the options here,” said Town Manager Tom Hall.

D’Andrea disagreed with Sullivan’s characterization of the allegations as dirty politics, saying, “It’s a matter of following our rules and procedures. If it is a conflict of interest, it has to be exposed.”

Rancourt declined to comment.

Councilors have been required since 2009 to file sworn disclosure statements each April. None did so, however, until this year, after the allegations were made against Sullivan.

Sullivan said he was unaware of the disclosure requirement. In a disclosure statement filed April 24, he said he did not know the amount of his brother’s contract and does not benefit from the business.

Sullivan’s proposal to allow use of non-organic pesticides when needed failed because of technical problems with the way the vote was taken on April 18, Hall said. In a review of the meeting, it appeared that the council did not vote on the main motion, he said.

The council has not reconsidered the plan.

Sullivan said the majority of councilors initially supported his proposal. For the vote on April 18, however, Sullivan recused himself because of his brother’s contract. D’Andrea and Rancourt did not vote.

Sullivan and D’Andrea said the allegations and tonight’s hearing will not affect their ability to conduct town business as a board.

Hall said he thinks it is important that the council have the ethics hearing because “it is not healthy or productive to not act on these allegations.”

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: [email protected]

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