From the Journal Inquirer
Zachary F. Vasile
27 June 2018
STAFFORD -- Town officials are considering their options following the arrest of Selectman Anthony Frassinelli this week, namely whether the former first selectman can continue to serve on the community’s highest elected board as he awaits the disposition of his case.
Frassinelli, who served as first selectman from 2015 to 2017, was charged Monday with altering records and third-degree computer crime after a monthslong investigation by state police concluded that he tried to wipe a town-owned desktop computer before leaving office. Town leaders are now examining legal avenues, since local ordinances do not specifically address what should happen when a selectman is charged with a felony offense, but has not been convicted of any crime.
“I don’t know where we stand right now,” First Selectwoman Mary Mitta said Tuesday of the three-member board. “Nothing like this has ever happened before.”
Mitta, who called the problem unprecedented, said she has spoken with Town Attorney Edward Muska since the arrest and will now work to determine how best to proceed given the circumstances.
“I’ll be investigating further what we should do,” she said.
The first selectwoman also said she is advising caution and noted that it is the job of the courts, not town officials, to litigate the matter.
“People are innocent until proven guilty,” Mitta said. “At this point it’s too soon to really know how to move forward.”
Town ordinances give the Board of Selectmen the power to remove members and alternates of other boards they have appointed if the official in question is no longer eligible for the position, has been convicted of a felony, has not attended four consecutive meetings of their respective committee, or has “engaged in any corrupt or fraudulent activity with respect to his conduct as a member or alternate of the board or commission (pending legal outcome).”
It is not clear, however, if the Board of Selectmen can exercise this power on its own elected members.
Muska could not be reached for comment.
John N. Locke Sr., the third member of the Board of Selectmen, also could not be reached for comment.
According to an affidavit supporting his arrest, Frasinelli was the last person to leave Town Hall on his last day as first selectman in November 2017. The very next day, Mitta, who won the office by a slim margin, and town staff discovered that the hard drive from the first selectman’s desktop computer had been entirely erased, with over 8,000 files temporarily lost.
The town’s information technology director was eventually able to restore the lost records.
Investigators have not identified a motive behind the purge of town files but did say they found thumbnail images of adult pornography on the recovered hard drive.
At any rate, Mitta said, the Board of Selectmen can continue to meet with or without Frassinelli, since the board needs only a quorum of two members to conduct town business. Frassinelli has been absent from meetings before, she said, and, should he no longer attend, the same quorum rules would continue to apply.
And while town officials will continue to look at legal options regarding Frassinelli’s continued public service, Mitta said she plans to keep her focus on town matters and not shine a prolonged spotlight on an issue she has no control over.
“At this point, I have a town to run, so we will continue to move forward,” she said. “It’s my job to protect this community.”
Frassinelli has not spoken publicly about his arrest or indicated whether or not he will resign.
The former first selectman could not be reached by phone for comment Tuesday and, on the day of his arrest, a Facebook page he used to interact with members of the community and stream videos of town meetings disappeared.
Mitta said that, as of Tuesday morning, she had not spoken with Frassinelli.