To avoid the conflicts of interest he was accused of in January, Spring Hill fire commissioner Tommy Marasciullo will quit using firefighters as subcontractors in his private painting business.
Marasciullo said Wednesday he won't stop using Lt. John Ferriero, with whom he has had a working relationship for 12 years, even though it was Marasciullo's vote to spare Ferriero's job that raised the issue of conflicting interests to begin with.
The issue arose during a workshop where fire commissioners discussed a new set of bylaws they recently adopted, which includes a provision requiring board members to abstain from votes on issues relating to relatives or business associates.
Had this policy been in place two months ago, Marasciullo said he would have needed to abstain from the 3-2 vote that spared Ferriero and firefighter Ed Falk from termination after a sex scandal.
Had he abstained, the effort to fire Ferriero and Falk still would have failed, 2-2.
Even so, fire commissioner Darryl Hamilton said it is important that elected officials avoid even the appearance of conflict.
Marasciullo vehemently rejects any suggestion that their business ties earned Ferriero special consideration. Marasciullo said he would be willing to fire his own brother if he thought he deserved it.
Yet Marasciullo's vote drew criticism from both Hamilton and fellow commissioner Richard Martin. Hamilton went so far as to say Marasciullo may have undermined the fire chief's authority because Ferriero was supposed to be suspended, and keeping him on a subcontractor's payroll supplemented Ferriero's income.
Already, ethics guidelines in state law require elected officials to abstain from votes where they have a personal conflict of interest, said fire district attorney Andrew Salzman. Now the board's bylaws state it as well.
"This will be right in the front of our policy book," said fire board chairman Jeffrey Hollander. "We have brought it to the forefront and, I think, for this department, this is a major leap."
Salzman, the attorney, repeatedly warned board members Wednesday to avoid business ties that could result in conflicts of interest. "You don't want to be in a position where you cannot vote," he said.
_ Robert King covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to rkingsptimes.com.