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Citizen charity draws scrutiny

Councilman Mark Hennessey cast the sole dissenting vote in accepting the June 23 donation, arguing the town should avoid taking money when it's not clear if it would be spent.

"The money that was being donated was for a purpose that we haven't even voted on yet," he said in a later interview. "Until such time as we determine how much it's going to cost to provide the service we agree on, I don't know if we should be in the business of taking donations for it."

He also said anonymous donations should not be considered, as they could originate from somewhere outside of town or be used simply to influence policy"especially if the donor knows the check will be returned.

He pointed out anyone who speaks at a board meeting is required to state their identity.

"Whenever somebody presents something before the board, it should be required they identify who they are and where they live," Hennessey said. "I don't think there should be two standards."

Councilman Kyle Kotary said he doesn't want to discourage any donations, but will be looking to the town attorney on the legality of taking anonymous donations for developing projects.

"Accepting anonymous funds for the food bank, or sheet music or the DARE program...are completely different from accepting donations for a policy or controversial issue," he said. "You just have to be careful where the money's coming from."

He cited concerns about involved parties attempting to influence the process or even having the donations be perceived as bribes.

Messina argued it would be improper to turn donations away or to set a blanket policy on citizen gifts because every contribution is unique. He also said the public shouldn't be discouraged from making donations, even if they will likely be refunded.

"The citizens have decided to send the town checks for these things that they believe in," he said. "They have a right to make that case by sending in a check.""

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