The former chairman of the Edgartown dredge committee was fined $5,000 by the State Ethics Commission for a conflict of interest violation stemming from an unauthorized dredging project in January.
According to a press release from the ethics commission issued Wednesday, Norman Rankow admitted to violating conflict of interest law when he directed the town dredge to perform work around a dock at a home on Witchwood avenue where he had served as general contractor. The dredge work on Jan. 13 was done without the proper federal, state and local permits.
As a result, Mr. Rankow paid a $5,000 civil penalty. In a disposition agreement signed Wednesday by the executive director, the ethics commission wrote that Mr. Rankow was fined “for using his official position as dredge committee chairman to secure for his private clients private dredging using town resources without the required permits and approval, Rankow knowingly or with reason to know used his official position to obtain an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to other similarly situated individuals in violation of [state law].”
The disposition noted that Mr. Rankow’s clients did not have to go through the time and expense of acquiring the necessary permits and approval for the dredge project.
In February, town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport had stern words about what happened. “This is a very serious matter, that town equipment was utilized to do unpermitted dredging for a private benefit in Katama Bay, and to dump the spoils into the bay,” he told the board of selectmen. “It is the type of activity which undermines the public’s faith in their government.”
Mr. Rankow resigned from the dredge committee in early February. He did not return a call seeking comment this week.
The commission said that the town paid the dredging crew $2,000 for their work, and the homeowners, Steven and Deborah Barnes, gave the town a $5,000 gift for the town dredge account.
The state Department of Environmental Protection fined the town $8,160 for the illegal dredging, with Mr. Rankow reimbursing the town for this and the town’s legal fees.
In response to the incident, Edgartown selectmen approved new dredge protocols in March, and also reconfigured the dredge advisory committee. An environmental assessment completed after the dredging did not find any “intensive or long term impact” to the area dredged, but hard clam reseeding was recommended, with the homeowners footing the bill.