Fifty shades of Rockland

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.

The tale took a twist when it became clear that surveillance cameras inside Town Hall may have captured part of the sexual encounter between Hall and Chiocca. Hall, through her attorney, went to court in an effort to get an injunction barring the release of the video, which she said would cause further harm to her family and compromise the town’s investigation.

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.

Can the sex scandal in Rockland get any more bizarre?

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said his chamber will attempt to pass legislation easing the blow of a Supreme Court ruling barring public sector unions from collecting dues from employees who don’t join up. (State House News) Charlie Chieppo of the Pioneer Institute said the court ruling could have a big impact on union political action committees, which play an outsized role in Massachusetts politics. (CommonWealth)

A Baker administration bid to rein in rising pharmacy costs in the MassHealth program was rejected by the federal government. Over the last five years, MassHealth pharmacy spending doubled from $1.1 billion to $2.2 billion. (CommonWealth)

The Massachusetts House approved an automatic voter registration bill covering those who renew drivers licenses or obtain health insurance through MassHealth. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The watchdog Boston Municipal Research Bureau is warning city officials to “be vigilant” over rising employee costs which now make up 70 percent of the $3.3 billion budget passed Wednesday by the City Council, including raises for themselves and the mayor. (Boston Herald)

Barnstable County officials are considering opening a multidisciplinary public safety training academy so towns don’t have to send police officers, paramedics, and firefighters off-Cape for training. (Cape Cod Times)

Brockton city councilors, who had initially favored cutting the budget for the Brockton 21st Century Corporation over frustration that they saw little progress from the quasi-public economic development agency, reversed themselves and restored the full budget line after lobbying by the executive director. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sometimes served as a swing vote in key decisions, announced his retirement, setting up President Trump to move the court further to the right. (New York Times) The fight over the nomination to replace Kennedy is certain to be intense on both sides with Democrats and Republicans using it as a battle cry in the midterm elections. (Washington Post) Here’s a list of likely  candidates to replace Kennedy. (Washington Post)

The House soundly defeated a compromise immigration bill put forth by Republican leadership and backed by Trump. (New York Times)

The IRS’s new 1040 form for income tax is shorter but there are more forms to fill out and the new form buries deductions and credits that taxpayers may overlook and fail to benefit from. (Wall Street Journal)

Trump is expected to tap former Fox News president Bill Shine, ousted over questions of his handling of sexual harassment allegations against network executives and personalities, as deputy chief of staff overseeing handling of the press and communications. (Associated Press)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Laid off workers at the soon-to-be-closed Phllips Lighting plant in Fall River will receive enhanced federal unemployment benefits, including extended time to collect while going to school and up to $10,000 for two years if they take a lower paying job. The decision came after officials determined the workers were harmed by imports. (Herald News)

Dan Bucks, a former Montana official, analyzes the approaches of the House and Senate to taxing short-term rentals and concludes the House approach is better. (CommonWealth)

Apple and Samsung have quietly settled their seven-year-old court battle over claims that the South Korean tech company ripped off iPhone’s design and software. (Wall Street Journal)

The judge in the suit filed by the New York attorney general seeking to dissolve the Trump Foundation urged the organizations officials to reach an agreement with the state without her involvement. (Bloomberg)

ARTS

Beyond Walls lights up three MBTA underpasses in downtown Lynn. (Daily Item)

Many members of the all-volunteer Tanglewood Festival Chorus are leaving after new conductor James Burton implemented tough new audition standards. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Laura Perille, the president and CEO of EdVestors, is slated to be the interim leader of the Boston Public Schools. (Boston Globe)

Cynthia Paris, a Latina who was the assistant school superintendent in Newton, is awarded a three-year contract to run the Lawrence schools at a starting salary of $235,000 a year. (Eagle-Tribune)

Interim UMass Boston chancellor Barry Mills says the institution is back on track. (CommonWealth)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A new study says opioid overdose deaths in the country may have been underestimated by as many as 70,000 between 1999 and 2015 because death certificates did not specify the drugs as cause of death. (U.S. News & World Report)

TRANSPORTATION

A new study suggests driverless cars are likely to increase congestion on Boston streets as more people get off public transit and into vehicles because of their door-to-door convenience. (Boston Globe)

A Boston Herald editorial follows up on the paper’s report that the MBTA spent $2,500 to refurbish pool tables in an employee break room and questions the need for both the billiards table and the position of Customer Experiences Project manager, who approved the expense.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Plum Island residents wage a long-shot battle against erosion. (WBUR)

A well-known environmental activist who is suing Massachusetts over lobster pot gear that he says endangers right whales is planning to expand his suit to five other states beginning with Maine. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Attorney General Maura Healey defended her decision to allow Mansfield to continue its temporary ban on marijuana businesses into 2019 without taking a formal vote. The AG said granting delays for other communities will be on a case-by-case basis and will not be widespread. (Boston Globe)

Wayland selectmen voted unanimously to place a referendum for a marijuana ban on the ballot after the Board of Health recommended the ban on all sales, manufacturing, and cultivation. Voters in the town narrowly approved the 2016 statewide ballot question to legalize recreational pot. (MetroWest Daily News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Federal officials say the indictment of three Massachusetts state troopers on embezzlement charges is “the beginning and not the end” of the investigation into the overtime scandal at the State Police. (Boston Herald)

A District Court judge denied a request under the Valor Act by a Vietnam veteran from Dartmouth to divert domestic abuse and cruelty charges and ordered the man to stay away from the victim. The Valor Act, which was changed earlier in the year after questions arose about its use, allowed judges to use discretion to allow veterans to seek counseling and treatment for first offenses. (Standard-Times)

The state is poised to take over a struggling regional 911 dispatch center in Essex County that has been plagued by poor service and tepid buy-in from local communities. (Salem News)