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August 21, 2013

Danvers selectman’s disclosure causes friction

Trask's wife, daughter work for school department

DANVERS — Gardner Trask, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, disclosed earlier this month that both his wife and his daughter work for the school department.

And while Trask said the disclosure was routine, not everyone agreed with his assessment.

His disclosure is “not an uncommon process, and I’m not the first to blaze this trail,” he said in making his announcement at a meeting on Aug. 6. To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, Trask said he will abstain from voting on matters relating to the school budget, both as a selectman and at Town Meeting.

He has filed a separate disclosure with the state Ethics Commission.

Trask previously disclosed his wife’s employment as an administrative assistant and in billing with the student services department. His wife, Patricia, earns approximately $37,000 for a job that predates his time on the board, he said.

What is new is the disclosure that his daughter, Lisa, 22, who graduated from Bridgewater State University in December, was working as an academic assistant at the high school, managing a classroom where special needs students come for support for testing and homework. She is seeking to become a Danvers teacher. Trask said yesterday he does not know what her employment status might be in the coming school year.

“I receive no benefit directly from my daughter as a result of her employment,” Trask said.

Not every selectman was pleased with Trask’s latest disclosure.

“You are not asking for a vote, which is good, because I couldn’t vote for this because it is a conflict of interest,” Selectman Dan Bennett said at the meeting. “I don’t see how by disclosing an appearance of a conflict of interest it goes away. That is my opinion and my feeling.”

Bennett said the town would be better served by getting an opinion from the state Ethics Commission. Bennett also appeared troubled that Trask would not be voting on the school budget, as school-related matters make up 51 percent of the town’s budget. He wondered if that would bar Trask from voting on school debt.

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