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King up for review: Complaint against town manager will not be considered Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Craig MacCormack Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- It remains unclear how selectmen will control the heated atmosphere expected at tomorrow night's review of Town Manager George King, who was recently slapped with an ethics complaint.

Residents are likely to turn out en masse for the session, which was pushed back two weeks to give selectmen Vice Chairwoman Ginger Esty more time to finish her review.  But she never turned in her comments and won't be part of the evaluation.

The complaint, filed with the state Ethics Commission by the estranged husband of one of King's former assistants, alleges King played strip poker with another former assistant.

"I expect there are going to be a lot of people, but I don't know," said selectmen Chairman Charles Sisitsky. "The important thing is that everyone is civil to each other during the discussion."

The complaint against King likely won't play into his review, but Esty said it should.

"It would be logical to have to deal with it," she said.

The reviews were written several weeks ago, said Sisitsky.  No public input is likely during the review discussion, he said.

"The process doesn't call for it," he said.  "Any board member is free to make any comment they want."

But Seth Levenson, the man who filed the complaint, said last week he plans to be there for the review.

"I'll be interested to hear what he (Levenson) has to say," Esty said.

Selectman Chris Ross, who worked with fellow board member Katie Murphy to compress selectmen's individual comments into one review, said he expects the review to go forward as planned.

He said the allegations against King are "very serious," and he expects the board to deal with them at a later date, but doesn't see the review as the proper forum for that conversation.

The complaint claims King participated in a strip poker game with Karen Potter, one of his assistants, while her sister, Allison Potter, his other assistant, looked on.

Levenson, Allison Potter's estranged husband, also claims King hosted regular push-up contests in town offices and once presented the winner with bottle of liquor as a prize.

Levenson claims in the complaint that he stopped his wife from playing in the strip poker game and believes that decision came into play in her eventual layoff, while Karen Potter was promoted and given a raise.

Reports published in the News quote Allison Potter as saying she resigned.  She now works part time, taking minutes of selectmen meetings.

King is estranged from his wife, and has been living in a Framingham apartment for close to a year.  He has denied Levenson's claims, but refrained from public comment in the week since news of the complaint broke.

"I'm not going to comment on any of the issues further than my statement right now," said King when asked if he had hired a lawyer or whether the complaint should be part of the board's review.

King has reviewed the four selectmen's evaluations of his work and written his self-evaluation, he said.

Town Counsel Chris Petrini has not yet been asked by selectmen to look at the complaint and comment whether the town itself faces any problems as a result.

Because it involves the character and reputation of a public official, said Petrini, any discussion of how the complaint could affect town business should be reserved for executive session.

"The board is going to have to take the action they deem to be appropriate here," he said.

Because the working relationships between King and his assistants and King and the selectmen are central to the discussion, Petrini yesterday recommended a cautious approach.

"These are always delicate things," he said.  "They are always issues where you have to tread carefully."

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