At the risk of playing Scrooge at Christmastime, we feel compelled to question the plan to hold the Oak Bluffs town holiday party next week at a restaurant and bar owned by one of the town selectmen.
Celebrating the season at the Lookout Tavern owned by Mike Santoro was no doubt conceived with the best intentions, but it seems to skate on the edge of the state ethics law, which was designed to curb activities where there is even the appearance of an elected official mingling personal business with the business of the town.
And then there’s the question of alcohol.
The party invitation for the December 18 event that went out to town employees and volunteers notes that there is a charge of ten dollars a head. With that small fee, Mr. Santoro is no doubt simply covering his costs for hosting the party at his establishment. But there are uncomfortable questions. The appearance of conflict of interest is one. Sale of liquor is another. Assuming drinking is allowed, will there be a cash bar? That could be viewed as a boon to Mr. Santoro’s business. An open bar? That appears to encourage excessive alcohol consumption. The town of Oak Bluffs licenses the Lookout Tavern. Not to invite trouble, but if there were an alcohol-related problem at the holiday party, what would be the town’s liability?
Surely there is a public place in Oak Bluffs that can accommodate the celebration. Town leaders still have time to move the party to another location, where employees and volunteers can enjoy some much-deserved holiday cheer without the possible taint of conflict.