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Malden

Mayor, city councilor trade charges

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson says he will file a complaint with the state Ethics Commission charging that City Councilor Neil Kinnon is using his elected position to benefit the charter school he helped found.

Kinnon, chairman of the council’s Public Property Committee, has criticized a proposal to move the city’s public works yard and some City Hall offices to an Eastern Avenue site since the proposal became public in late November. 

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The Eastern Avenue parcel abuts a newly built athletic field belonging to Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, which had previously looked into buying the land, Christenson said.

Kinnon is the chairman of the charter school’s board of trustees. 

“He’s conflicted,” Christenson said Wednesday. “He needs to recuse himself going forward.”

In a Public Property Committee meeting last Tuesday, Kinnon voted for a resolution to recommend that the City Council reject the proposed relocation site, owned by Boston Steel Co.

The resolution passed, 3-2, with councilors David D’Arcangelo — who offered the resolution — and Jim Nestor joining Kinnon in opposing the location.

The vote was the tipping point for Christenson, who said Thursday he plans to file a formal complaint with the Ethics Commission.

“I was hoping we wouldn’t have to travel down this road,” the mayor said.

Kinnon said he opposed the site because it is between two densely populated neighborhoods and it will be too expensive, not because of its proximity to the charter school he cofounded. Christenson is trying to silence his opposition, he said.

“If he believes his threats will stop me from speaking on behalf of my constituents and the citizens’ tax base, he is sadly mistaken,” Kinnon said.

The 2-acre Eastern Avenue site was the only one offered to the city after it announced a request for proposals in late October, Christenson said.

If purchased, it would be developed into a new public works yard and a City Hall annex, which would include the city’s planning,  engineering, inspection, permitting, and information systems.

A panel appointed by the mayor is reviewing relocation options for the Public Works Department, currently located on Commercial Street.  It is expected to make a recommendation to the mayor early next year. The existing public works yard would be redeveloped commercially, he said.

For Kinnon — who is not on the appointed panel — to discuss the proposal before a recommendation is made is premature, Christenson said.

“Here we are finally making progress to address this issue and he has to immerse himself when the time isn’t right,” the mayor said.

“That is my prerogative and my duty to the citizens of the city of Malden,” he said. “It is not the mayor’s duty.”

Kinnon said he made a complaint of his own against the mayor with the attorney general’s office in November

In it he contended that Christenson violated the state’s Open Meeting Law by asking the Malden Redevelopment Authority  to reach out to owners of possible locations for a new public works yard without permission from the council, and that the mayor voiced his support of the Boston Steel parcel in an October meeting, before a request for proposals was officially announced.

The process for moving both the public works yard and City Hall “reeks of favoritism,” Kinnon wrote in his complaint.

“He’s playing fast and loose here and he needs to start following the law,” Kinnon said Thursday.

Christenson dismissed Kinnon’s allegations. “I don’t believe we had violated any open meeting laws,” he said Thursday, adding that his complaint was separate and distinct from Kinnon’s. “One is about the Open Meeting Law and one is about a conflict of interest,” he said.

The panel reviewing the relocation includes City Councilors Barbara Murphy and Neil Anderson; Kevin Duffy, the city’s strategy and business development officer; and Deborah Burke and Stephen Wishoski of the Redevelopment Authority.

The City Council is expected to vote on the Public Property Committee’s recommendation to reject the proposed relocation site for the public works yard at a meeting in January.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at Bencks.Globe@gmail.com.
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