HANSON — Hanson Selectmen Vice Chairman Kenny Mitchell has paid a $5,00 civil penalty for violation of the state’s conflict of interest law, according to the State Ethics Commission Executive Director David A. Wilson.
Mitchell was fined for “authorizing town payments to the tree service company he privately worked for, representing his private employer in a matter involving the town and acting as a selectman to advance a proposal to remove trees on town land while knowing his private employer would likely be hired to do the work,” according to a press release from the commission.
In a prepared statement,, Mitchell said: “On Nov. 12, 2021, in order to immediately end complaints made about me to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Ethics Commission, I executed a ‘disposition agreement’ and paid a fine. I did so because I recognized that it would not be in the best interests of my family or the Town of Hanson to allow the proceedings to drag on. I fully recognize that I must be very careful to not allow my position as Selectman to conflict in any way with my position as General Manager of Newcomb’s Tree Services, LLC, or for there to even be an appearance of a possible conflict. I would like to thank the many residents of the Town and my family for supporting me throughout this process.”
Neither Selectmen Chairman Matt Dyer, not Town Administrator Lisa Green would comment on the fine.
A selectman since 2014, Mitchell is the general manager of Newcomb’s Tree Services LLC. The commission alleged that, from 2016 through 2019, Mitchell, as a selectman, signed 23 warrants authorizing town payments to Newcomb’s for tree cutting and removal.
Also, in 2019, when a Town Meeting warrant article was proposed by the Hanson Recreation Commission for removal of trees at Camp Kiwanee — at an estimated cost of between $10,000 and $20,000 —Mitchell acted as a selectman to both move and vote to place the article on a special Town Meeting warrant. When another selectman made the motion for voting on the article at the special Town Meeting — at a cost of $25,000 — Mitchell seconded the motion, according to the Ethics Commission.
“At that time, Mitchell knew the town would likely hire Newcomb’s Tree Service to do the work,” the commission’s release stated. “Mitchell’s actions violated the conflict of interest law’s prohibition against municipal employees participating in matters in which they know they or their employer have a financial interest.”
The commission also found that Mitchell violated the conflict of interest law in 2016 and 2017.
The town had asked Newcomb’s to remove dead trees from a main road, which required access to private property. When the private property owner accused Newcomb’s workers of damaging a water line, the commission found that Mitchell represented his employer and the town as well.
“By doing so, Mitchell violated the conflict of interest law’s prohibition against public employees acting on behalf of someone other than the municipality in connection with a matter in which the municipality has a direct interest,” the release stated.