Selectmen to Reconsider Appointment of George Morse as Constable
By: Christopher Kazarian
On the one-year anniversary of when Falmouth selectmen were deadlocked over whether to reappoint George F. Morse of Highview Drive, East Falmouth, to the position of town constable, the matter is set to come up again before the board on Monday.
This time Mr. Morse could receive a more favorable reception from selectmen, as he appears to have the three votes necessary to reclaim his position, which he used as his main source of income during the three years he served the town.
Prior to the events of the past year, Mr. Morse had been a constable for 23 years, not only in Falmouth, but previously in Fall River, Westport, and Taunton.
Last June selectmen reached a stalemate, 2-2, in which Mr. Morse was not reappointed, leading to tension among board members over the past year surrounding not only that decision, but also whether the board and other town officials improperly obtained and viewed Mr. Morse’s sealed criminal record.
Following the June vote, Mr. Morse reapplied for the constable position, but during the subsequent interview in July, the meeting was cut short after his attorney, Augustus F. Wagner Jr., suggested that town officials had illegally viewed his client’s criminal record.
Mr. Morse later filed a complaint with the state Criminal History Systems Board, which ruled in December that town officials did not improperly access, distribute, or view his records.
A week after the December ruling Mr. Morse traveled to Boston with Selectman Ahmed A. Mustafa to deliver a complaint against the town to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Mr. Mustafa said that case is still open.
Mr. Morse also signed and dropped off a petition at Falmouth Town Hall to recall Selectman Melissa C. Freitag in November, although he denied he was the one behind the effort.
Later that same month Mr. Morse held a coffee cup bearing the words “You Talk To Much” [sic], written in pen, he displayed at a selectmen’s meeting that was later confiscated at the conclusion of the meeting. At the time Mr. Morse said the message was not intended for anyone on the board, but he would not say why it was written on there.
He has since kept a low profile, although he regularly attends selectmen’s meetings.
Two weeks ago the board discussed a draft policy related to the appointment of constables that was drafted by Mr. Mustafa. There is currently no policy in place.
The board ultimately voted to send the draft to Falmouth Town Counsel Frank K. Duffy Jr. to seek his opinion and will take up the policy on Monday night.
That agenda item comes right after one listed as “Continued Interview & Vote For Constable” that is scheduled for 7:55 PM and is set to last 10 minutes.
Yesterday afternoon Chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Brent V.W. Putnam confirmed the item is related to the potential appointment of Mr. Morse. He said the last time Mr. Morse appeared before the board, last July, that “we left his status in limbo and there was no action on whether to appoint him.”
He said board members do not object to continuing the discussion on Monday although they would like to finalize the policy for appointing constables first.
As to how matters unfolded last year, Mr. Putnam said, they were “a little haphazard and honestly unfair and not just to Mr. Morse. There were a lot of questions remaining that went unanswered.”
Beyond that, he said, Mr. Morse was an invaluable asset to many local businesses and individuals who relied on the former constable to help settle debts by serving process.
Mr. Mustafa agreed that Mr. Morse filled an important need in town and said, by not reappointing him last year, it hurt the citizens of Falmouth.
“Why did we hurt our own citizens?” he asked. “I wouldn’t do that. It is my job to help, not to hurt them.”
Mr. Putnam said he received more e-mails and phone calls in support of Mr. Morse last year than any other individual before the board for appointment.
He recalled one conversation with a woman whom Mr. Morse helped in collecting a debt. “When he got her the money, he refused payment,” Mr. Putnam said.
Instead Mr. Morse asked for a loaf of pumpkin bread. Why?
“She was on social security and he knew she desperately needed every penny she could get,” Mr. Putnam said. “There are a lot of stories like that I heard.”
It is why Mr. Putnam said he would be inclined to vote in favor of appointing Mr. Morse as a constable if such a decision comes before the board on Monday night.
The third vote Mr. Morse would need to become a constable could come from the board’s newest member, David Braga, who was elected in May when he ousted incumbent Carey M. Murphy.
Mr. Braga filed a report to the Criminal History Systems Board in July claiming that town officials had committed a flagrant violation in distributing Mr. Morse’s sealed CORI records.
At least one current board member, Mary (Pat) Flynn, is not pleased with how the agenda item was posted with little detail, e-mailing Mr. Putnam to ask if the “continued interview” was related to Mr. Morse.
She said it is not right, arguing that there were other people not reappointed last year. “That doesn’t mean anyone who didn’t get appointed then should get appointed now,” she said.
She also was concerned that Mr. Mustafa was behind this latest effort. “I would say yes, it has everything to do with him,” she said. “Ahmed is bound and determined to get George his job back as constable and he probably will because he has the votes this time.”
To her, she said, there is a potential conflict of interest because Mr. Mustafa is a friend of Mr. Morse.
“Theoretically you are not supposed to advocate for your friends and relatives, granted we all have friends who apply for appointments, but that doesn’t mean you advocate for them and set them up with interviews,” Ms. Flynn said. “We don’t do that and we don’t give them special consideration, but Ahmed goes out of the way to do that.”
Mr. Mustafa refuted the allegations of any improprieties and said he would not recuse himself if a vote is taken to appoint Mr. Morse on Monday.
“The only time I would recuse myself, in a particular situation, is if you were my worst enemy and were coming in for a liquor license [for example] and I hated the ground you walked on,” he said.
“I would recuse myself because I would not want to vote in a negative way... Maybe Pat Flynn should [recuse herself] because apparently she has a real deep hatred for this guy.”
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