Fifty shades of Rockland
Apparent sex scandal turns town upside down
THE SOUTH SHORE TOWN of Rockland seems to be in a sex-fueled political meltdown.
The lurid saga first surfaced on May 23 when Boston 25 News reported that two town officials were facing misconduct allegations for engaging in inappropriate behavior the previous week inside Town Hall after leaving a bar. Six days later, the Board of Selectmen placed Town Administrator Allan Chiocca on paid leave and hired an outside firm to conduct an investigation into “serious allegations against certain town officials.”
The next day Selectman Deirdre Hall said on Facebook that the board had acted at her request because of “an allegation of inappropriate conduct by the Town Administrator towards me.” She also said she was taking a voluntary leave from the Board of Selectmen and ending her campaign for state rep “to prioritize my needs and those of my family.”
A few days later Chiocca’s attorney said his client had not acted inappropriately to Hall and was eager to cooperate with the investigation into his conduct.
Hall also claimed to have no memory of the May 17 incident at Town Hall “because of impairment.”
Edward Kimball, the chair of the Board of Selectman, attached an affidavit to Hall’s motion in which he said Chiocca was claiming that Hall was a “sexual predator” and the aggressor in their Town Hall encounter. He also said the video of the encounter showed Hall trying to leave, but he indicated there was a gap in the recording.
With media interest in the situation mounting — a post on the website Turtleboy said “this is better than 50 Shades of Grey — Hall withdrew her motion. The video still hasn’t been released, however, as behind-the-scenes maneuvering continues.
An attempt by Kimball to turn the matter over to the town’s police department prompted a shouting match at a recent Board of Selectmen’s meeting. Selectman Greg Ryan tried to remove Kimball as chairman, a move that was ruled out of order and deferred to the next meeting in July. Ryan stormed out of the meeting, telling reporters that “I’m not going to sit there and listen to [Kimball] phony everything up.”The latest development came this week, when Rockland’s town accountant, Eric Hart, revealed that he had been placed on paid leave at an unannounced Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Saturday at 5 p.m. Hart, who is one of a few municipal employees with access to surveillance footage of Town Hall, said he hasn’t been told what he did wrong.
John Clifford, the town’s lawyer, said the decision to place Hart on leave was “unrelated to the ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct by other officials.” He declined to discuss the circumstances of the unusual Saturday meeting.