BROOKFIELD — The State Ethics Commission’s August determination that former Brookfield Selectman Stephen Comtois violated public trust and ethics laws was upheld by a Suffolk Superior Court judge in a decision rendered last week.
The case is related to a property purchase Comtois made from a town resident. It resulted in a $20,000 fine by the commission.
“We are going to pursue” an appeal, up to the Supreme Judicial Court, Comtois said in an interview on Thursday.
“My belief is” a witness, during the ethics commission investigation, “perjured himself.”
Comtois purchased a parcel of land for $200 from a woman who attended a board meeting with the understanding she would be potentially donating the property to the town. The purchase price was $40,000 less than the land’s assessed value, according to the State Ethics Commission. This occurred back in 2016.
At the time, the board of selectmen said they would be discussing the mechanics of placing this matter on a town meeting warrant.
Comtois, the board’s chairman at the time – who had been designated by the board to work out details with the woman about the town’s potential purchase, bought it for himself.
The superior court upheld the fine, following Comtois’ unsuccessful appeal.
The State Ethics Commission said Massachusetts law prohibits town employees from participating in matters in which they have financial interest. The commission determined Comtois violated the law when he proposed putting the donation acceptance before Town Meeting when he knew he had a financial interest in the property.
Comtois violated the law when he used his position as selectman to secure an opportunity to buy the property, depriving the town of the chance to benefit from receiving the land donation, the commission’s decision said.
Quoting from the superior court decision, a press release from the Commission says: “The court decision states that ‘there was more than sufficient evidence’ to conclude that Comtois volunteered to represent the Board of Selectmen with respect to the proposed land donation so that he could offer to purchase the property himself and that he made misrepresentations to the real estate broker to induce her and the landowner to consider selling the land to him rather than donating it to the town.”
The May 17 decision written by Judge Debra A. Squire-Lee says, “Comtois was in a unique postion to mislead” the property owner and a real estate agent,” and wrote: “I find the Commission’s decision to have been based on substantial evidence.”