Selectman Mustafa Stands Behind Former Constable
By: Christopher Kazarian
Tensions on the Falmouth Board of Selectmen continued to fester this week after it was revealed that Selectman Ahmed A. Mustafa went with former town constable George W. Morse of Highview Drive, East Falmouth, to deliver a complaint against the town to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination office in Boston.
Although her office received the complaint, Barbara Green, MCAD spokesman, said it was not available to be shared with the public because the town has not yet been served with it.
Mr. Morse, who refused to return repeated calls for an interview, has been the focus of considerable scrutiny since not being reappointed as a constable in June.
He has contended that the Falmouth Police Department illegally disseminated his sealed criminal record to selectmen as part of that appointment process and subsequently filed a complaint with the state Criminal History Systems Board.
Last week the CHSB ruled that town officials did not act improperly in accessing, distributing, or viewing his records. That ruling cannot be appealed.
Mr. Mustafa said he disagreed with that ruling, referencing his original arguments from this summer when the board was debating whether Mr. Morse should return to his post as a constable.
Among other issues Mr. Mustafa has with how the town handled that matter is that it was taking into account something on Mr. Morse’s record that occurred nearly four decades ago. On a typical application for employment, he noted that a misdemeanor over five years or a felony over 10 years does not have to be declared.
“George’s crime, so to speak, was 38 years ago,” Mr. Mustafa said.
“Why did it have to come out now? What was the impetus to bring out something that took place 38 years ago that has been sealed?” Since the board’s June vote, in which it reached a 2-2 stalemate, to not reappoint Mr. Morse, the selectmen have experienced, at times, a tumultuous six months.
In August, Mr. Mustafa and Selectman Brent V.W. Putnam were unsuccessful in attempting to have Falmouth Town Manager Robert L. Whritenour Jr. placed on administrative leave after Kristen L. Waugaman, a former town employee, mentioned he sexually harassed her as part of a larger MCAD complaint against the town.
MCAD ruled last week that Mr. Whritenour did not commit sexual harassment and the town was not guilty of discrimination against Ms. Waugaman.
This week represents the latest chapter for the already fractured board, but Mr. Mustafa argued that there was nothing wrong with him driving to Boston to drop off a complaint against the town.
“First of all George and I have spent all our lives in the town. I’ve known him for a long time,” he said. “Wouldn’t you take a ride with your friend? Why do I have to be a loner for the rest of my life?” Beyond that, he admitted to being supportive of Mr. Morse’s crusade, believing the town acted improperly in viewing his criminal records and using them to decide whether he should be appointed.
“I’m not defending George, per se. It could be any citizen,” he said.
“This is a travesty of justice and it is my duty to protect this person’s civil rights and make sure due process is served. He was discriminated against.” But the friendship, for him, is still an important piece of the puzzle. “I didn’t start this. I’m just involved in a battle,” he said.
“I don’t leave my buddies injured on the battlefield. If my enemy is shooting at my friends, they will have to deal with me.” Selectman Carey M. Murphy, who has served for nine years, said Mr. Mustafa’s actions do not surprise him. “It is Ahmed being Ahmed,” he said. “I wish at times his conduct was a little bit more part of the collective group and he had an understanding that if you don’t get your way, you move on.” This is not the first instance, Mr. Murphy said, that Mr. Mustafa’s actions have conflicted with the town’s interests. During the civil suit filed against the town for breach of contract by the former architect of the $86 million Falmouth High School renovation, ARCADD of West Newton, he said Mr. Mustafa “gave a deposition in support of the architect. His actions there were clearly outside what the normal actions of a member of the board of selectmen should be.” The jury in that case awarded ARCADD roughly $2 million in September.
Therefore he did not think it was a stretch to see Mr. Mustafa accompanying Mr. Morse to Boston to file a complaint against the town.
“This action is in line with Ahmed,” he said. “He has an independent streak.” While he highlighted Mr. Mustafa’s positive qualities—his ardent support for local veterans as an example—Mr. Murphy said these type of actions are a distraction to the board, and “I think it erodes the people’s confidence in us when they see this. It colors us all as a five-member board with something we don’t need to be colored with. We have more important issues to be dealing with.” Chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Mary (Pat) Flynn agreed, expressing disappointment in Mr. Mustafa’s conduct.
While there may be nothing illegal to it, she said, “he is clearly acting outside the provisions of the charter.” She was referring to a section of the charter that stipulates that selectmen are to only act as one, with members having no individual powers.
Unfortunately, she said, this is not enforceable.
She also suggested that Mr. Mustafa is not upholding his oath of office by supporting Mr. Morse’s MCAD case against the town. “He is supposed to represent the town,” she said. “He is acting on behalf of his friend, and for him that is all there is to it and he thinks that is right...He is elected to serve everyone in town, not just George Morse.” She said there have been many times when her friends have not been appointed to different positions, but she never went to the lengths Mr. Mustafa has. “I don’t go out on their behalf and file complaints against the town,” she said.
There was a sense of frustration in her voice as she admitted she has little recourse in dealing with this situation. “I don’t know how to deal with this,” she said. “He just marches to the beat of his own drum.” This has made the past six months a stressful one, she said and has made the work of selectmen that much tougher. “It is very difficult to do the business of the town when there are members of the board who divert the discussion,” she said. “It has been a very difficult year.”