Believe It or Not, It’s Legal [PHIL-OSOPHY]
We've heard the stories of people rewarded with packs of smokes or nips of booze for going to the polls on election day, but here's a head-scratcher for you.
Over in Seekonk, a local developer is offering a $500 rental voucher to tenants who show up at a town meeting where the selectmen will be voting on his proposal for rezoning the land of the former Showcase Cinema property he bought so he could change it from a business district to one for multi-family homes.
Charles Tapalian vows everything is kosher and he's done nothing underhanded when he dangled residents of a nearby housing complex he owns a tempting $500 rental voucher to attend the town meeting the night of his rezoning request. Simple enough, right?
Or do think there's something unethical with what he did? Sonya Bernier-Moniz of the select board wondered out loud if Tony Soprano, a character of the HBO show about an organized crime family, was going to live there?
Tapalian said he asked his attorney if this was within the law and was told it's completely legal, noting "the $500 rental voucher was only for attending the town meeting and doesn't in any way tell the residents how to vote," according to the Sun-Chronicle.
I'm trying to keep a straight face writing this. In comments to the newspaper, the developer compared this as being no different from offering voters a free ride to the polls. He said the offer was made only to encourage residents to participate in the democratic process, not influence their vote in any way. Ah, a true American patriot!
Tapalian wants to build 102 additional townhouses, a pool and a gym on the rezoned land to expand his Greenbrier Village. So far, two-hundred voter signatures were submitted to town hall asking for a special town meeting and selectmen have scheduled one for Jan.28. Do you think the developer will get a good turnout of supporters?
In life and in business, I've learned that risk comes from not knowing what you're doing. Tapalian knows exactly the formula to success, and it's legal.
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 am to 10 am. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in the commentary are solely those of the author.