Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

September 26, 2013

Call for disclosure on state ethics inquiry


The Andover Townsman

---- — Editor, Townsman:

David Birnbach has determined that he has the blessing of the state Ethics Commission to continue his pursuit of a charter school grant from the state while also serving on the Andover School Committee. An editorial in your newspaper on Aug. 8 expressing concern at a perceived conflict, two letters to the editor on Aug. 14 and another on Aug. 28 calling for his resignation, and publicly stated skepticism and concern by every other School Committee member at their last meeting on Sept. 12 have not deterred Mr. Birnbach

At the Sept. 12 School Committee meeting, Mr. Birnbach was asked to release the letter he sent to the state Ethics Commission seeking guidance. He did not respond to that request of a committee member, but he has indicated that he will not seek further guidance from the Ethics Commission. On Sept. 19, Mr. Birnbach and other members of his group held an information session at Memorial Hall Library. At that meeting, I directly asked Mr. Birnbach during the Q&A session whether he would release his letter to the state Ethics Commission and their response. He ignored my first question and responded that the letter he received from the Ethics Commission is in the public domain. While I have seen short quotes from the letter, I have not seen the letter. I followed up my public question at the meeting with an email to Mr. Birnbach later that evening, asking again if he would release his letter to the state Ethics Commission. I have yet to hear back from him.

“Ask the right questions, you’ll get the right answers.” We’ve all heard those words of wisdom before. Since I don’t know what Mr. Birnbach asked the Ethics Commission, I am left to assume that he crafted his question(s) in a way that he knew would elicit general, non-specific guidelines that he could then use to support his (and only his, apparently) position that there is no perceived or actual conflict of interest in his dual role as a proponent of a charter school in Andover and a sitting member of the Andover School Committee. David, if you won’t release the letter you sent to the state Ethics Commission, after repeated requests, we are left to assume the worst.

Tom Deso

81 High St.