By: Brian Genest – July, 2022
Try not to let Selectman Tony Archinski’s failed political stunt ruin your faith in local government. In epic, progressive fashion, the chairman of the Dracut Democrat Town Committee tried to pull a fast one. His so-called code of conduct was a bad, political idea that would have polluted town government with more personal politics, new political penalties, and ongoing punitive payback—and it died the fast death it deserved.
In his aspirational manifesto, Archinski said the purpose of the code was to provide “a centralized standard of conduct” for selectmen and their appointees. In the real world, it would have covered and controlled all their actions and communications, whether spoken or written, including social media posts and emails. Archinski also took it upon himself to include a “Penalties” section that would have allowed for board members to render punishment on each other and their appointees for alleged violations.
Basically, this was Archinski’s sad attempt to shred the First Amendment, stifle robust debate and silence his political opponents. It was a move right out of the leftist playbook. And it backfired, bigtime.
Irony: When the board majority let him know why they planned to vote it down, Archinski bullied two of his female colleagues about their professional careers. Talk about bad behavior!
Archinski unveiled his thinly veiled proposal in May, saying he did so because the board and their appointees “could use a reminder that we actually work for the public” and “we should always maintain professional decorum.” At that time, it got a lukewarm reception.
At the board’s meeting in June, Archinski reiterated his reasons for the proposal. Selectmen quickly torched it.
Selectman Joe DiRocco called the timing suspicious and questioned why Archinski waited to bring it forward nine years after joining the board.
“He waited to bring this forward at the meeting after he didn’t get elected chair,” DiRocco said. “I don’t judge members on this board, nor do I expect members on this board to judge me. We’re judged every day from the voters who elected us.”
DiRocco’s comments apparently triggered Archinski who tried to respond immediately. Chairman Alison Genest (my wife) reminded Archinski that not all board members had spoken once on the matter, and he could speak a second time after that happened.
Irony: Archinski wants a new code of conduct but didn’t want to follow the existing Roberts Rules of Order when it comes to discussing his own agenda item. Talk about being above the rules!
Selectman Jennifer Kopcinski didn’t see the need, pointing out that board members must follow the state’s ethics laws and other rules.
“I don’t disagree with anything in here in principle, but I just don’t think we need another piece of paper that governs us when we’re already covered by other documents,” she said.
Genest called it unnecessary, questioning the timing and the appropriateness of board members issuing penalties to each other for alleged violations.
“I am going to vote against this because I see it as a solution looking for a problem,” she said. “And as far as the penalties section goes, we were not elected to play judge, jury and executioner on our colleagues.”
When Archinski spoke a second time, he denied being “mad” about not becoming chairman and said he had asked Selectman Heather Santiago-Hutchings not to nominate him for the position.
“I didn’t want to be the chairman of the board this time around, so I’d like to get that straight,” Archinski said.
(Of course, Santiago-Hutchings did nominate him. At that time, instead of declining, Archinski said nothing and made the board vote down his nomination before the majority took a subsequent vote re-electing Genest as chairman.)
But Archinski didn’t stop there.
“Basically, I’m a little bit surprised that someone who purportedly works in HR doesn’t like the fact that we’re submitting a selectmen (sic) code of conduct,” he said to Genest.
Then he turned to Kopcinski. “A lawyer… lawyers have some of the most stringent ethics and code of conducts (sic) rules and regulations. It’s almost like saying lawyers don’t need one either. I don’t get that Jennifer,” Archinski said.
Once he stopped his bully babbling, Genest called Archinski’s comments out of order. “As far as my HR, my professional history is not on the agenda here tonight, Mr. Archinski,” she said.
Irony: Archinski raises the private-sector, professional careers of his colleagues while his own public-sector career as a town police officer is currently a matter of public discussion and scrutiny. Worthy scrutiny. Talk about hypocrisy!
ICYMI: Months before this year’s town election, resident Kevin O’Brien submitted a public records request asking for documents related to Archinski’s employment as a police officer. In response, O’Brien got hundreds of pages of documents, which he published online and provided to the media and producers of television shows at Dracut Access Television, including me. Among the public records released from Archinski’s file were internal investigations, disciplinary actions, settlement agreements and other documents.
Many of the released documents included redacted information. Information about a half-dozen items were withheld in their entirety. O’Brien appealed the town’s decision to redact and withhold the information to the state’s public records keeper. The town was ordered to provide all documents in unredacted form, but their release has been delayed for months; O’Brien says he still has not received them.
(My August column will have the full details about the public records related to Archinski’s employment that have been released so far. A follow-up column will cover the previously withheld and soon-to-be unredacted documents once they are finally released.)
In the meantime, here’s an idea: Rather than trying to control what others say and do, questioning the careers of his colleagues and bringing more unnecessary political drama to local government, Archinski should take a good look at himself in the code-of-conduct mirror!
— Brian Genest, chairman of the Dracut Republic Town Committee, believes in our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Happy Independence Day! ◊