Costa dismissed Phelan’s defense that the e-mail was sent from a personal account.
“As a town administrator, if you’re acting on behalf of those that employ you and those that oversee you — that would be the Board of Selectmen — there is no such thing as private,” he said.
Ann Poppenga, an outgoing School Committee member who supported Pierce and did not run for reelection, called the alleged organizing “unfathomable” and said she felt as though her tax dollars were being misused. “That makes me sick,” she said.
Gordon, chairman of the selectmen, said that selectmen working on School Committee campaigns did not present a problem. “As long as they’re not deliberating on town matters, three selectmen can be in the same room at the same time,” he said.
He said that Rota and Tolson had strong backgrounds on education and that to suggest the race was solely about regionalization was oversimplifying the situation.
“People are quick to say, ‘These people are for regionalization, and these folks are against it,’ ” he said, but he supports studying the alternatives.
Sheehan said he was not aware of any organizing of a call list by Phelan. Fuller said he had not received Phelan’s e-mail and had not made telephone calls to promote candidates, though he had talked to family about the race during broader conversations.
McGaughey said people who oppose regionalization want to hold onto the town’s individuality, but that children pay the price. Holbrook’s state test scores are “amongst the lowest in the state,” he said, and the School Committee has “gone nowhere for years.”
He brushed aside the allegations of impropriety, saying accusations happen day and night in politics. “I wake up every morning supporting who I want,” he said. “If someone else wants to help out, that’s great.”
Costa said he filed the ethics complaint on March 28, and he anticipates an initial investigation by the State Ethics Commission could last a month. The agency does not confirm or deny complaints or pending investigations.
Jennette Barnes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.