Residents push for city to reform Ethics Board
When Shelton resident Gregory Tetro went to City Hall to attend a Board of Ethics meeting on July 14, he learned that the city hasn’t had an ethics board since 2013.
“My first thought is, ‘There’s no ethics in Shelton,’” Tetro said in a speech directed at the Board of Aldermen. “I found out the last meeting was on Oct. 10, 2013. I know this because that is the last meeting that actually has minutes. The April 10, 2014, meeting was cancelled and the April 9, 2015, meeting was on the agenda but no minutes of that meeting were posted. I also noticed John Basher had to resign before Dec. 1, 2015. I know this because per the code of ordinances he could not retain that position when he became the Mayor’s Administrative Assistant.”
Mayor Mark Lauretti said Basher was one of two resignations and the city has simply yet to fill the vacancies. He said the board’s lack of available minutes is due to the lack of “ethics complaints filed.”
“The ethics commission only meets when there’s an ethics complaint filed. They don’t have a set schedule for when they meet or meet every month,” Lauretti said. “If there’s nothing to deliberate over or discuss then they don’t meet.”
Lauretti said the gap between now and the last time the board’s minutes were posted.
“If the minutes don’t appear on the site then there was nothing discussed,” said Lauretti.
“We can go years and years and years without an ethics complaint. And then all of the sudden we can get a flurry of them if someone is on a ‘mission.’”
Tetro said his next step will be to speak with someone with the state since there’s currently no local board to address his concerns. He then posed the question to the aldermen: “Why is there no Board of Ethics in this city?”
“If it is this hard to find people to fill these positions I would be happy to help out. One guarantee I can provide you is that you won’t read about me in a newspaper or find me in a courtroom with my ethics in question,” Tetro said. “During this time while no Ethics Board was in place, no questions could be asked about the changes being made in the city. This has led to frustration, apathy and the feeling that your voice means nothing.”
Board Aldermen President John Anglace said Tetro was right in highlighting the city’s need for an Ethics Board.
“We are diligently working on it and are already looking into multiple candidates," said Anglace.
Tetro questions whether city’s decisions are ‘ethical’
While addressing the Board of Aldermen at their July 14 meeting, Shelton resident Greg Tetro expressed this concerns for the city not having an active Ethics Board.
He went on to specify about some of the unanswered questions he has for the non existing Ethics Board and asked the Aldermen for their input on how to find resolutions.
“We understand that there is very little information that needs to be posted regarding the Planning and Zoning Commission meetings legally. Is it ethical to censor by omissions the rebuttals to developer’s proposal? Is it ethical to shorten, omit, or change any speech in a meeting? Is it ethical to have a Mayor meet with a developer and his attorney in the middle of an open hearing? Is it ethical for a Mayor to hold a fundraiser for the Chairwoman of the Planning and Zoning Committee during an open hearing considering he is on the record of wanting these changes to our city? In no way am I saying that I know if any laws are broke. What I truly believe is many actions are ethically wrong.”
Tetro said he also questions whether or not it is ethical for five Bob Scinto employees to have donated to Chairwoman of the Planning and Zoning Commission Ruth Parkins’ campaign for State Rep. District 113, shortly after he presented an application before the commission.
Parkins responded by saying the five donations in question were made by employees whom she’s worked with for the past 20 years during her time as an employee of Iroquois Gas which is located in Tower 1 of Scinto Towers.
“I hardly think the 100 or so dollars in question would buy anyone’s vote,” said Parkins.
The city’s ordinance addresses a conflict of interest regarding employees, business transactions and gifts, but there is no specification of what is considered to be “substantial” or what will have an effect on an employee’s “independent judgement or action.”
Section 2-353 of the city’s ordinance reads, “Conflict of interest prohibited.
- No officer, employee or official shall engage in or participate in any business or transaction, or shall have an interest, direct or indirect, which is incompatible with the proper discharge of his official duties in the public interest or would tend to impair his independent judgment or action in the performance of his official duties.
- No officer, employee or official shall solicit or accept any substantial gift, whether in the form of a service, loan, thing, or promise, from any person, which to his knowledge is interested in business dealings with the city.”
“I deal with all of those folks who made donations to me all the time. I don’t think there was anything improper with me taking minimal donations from these folks. I don’t know what is unethical about that,” said Parkins. “They all know about the campaign.”
She added that six other board members were in favor of the Scinto application which was presented to the P&Z commission last month and that Tetro also said he was in favor of the development.
Board of Aldermen President John Anglace said the matter with Parkins should be directed to the state’s Election Enforcement Commission.
“They’re far more grounded than any ethics commission, they deal with elections all the time,” said Anglace.
Attorney Joseph Foley of the state’s Election Enforcement Commission said it is actually out their jurisdictions and is a matter that would be decided by the city’s Ethics Board and should be spelled out in the city’s ordinance.
“You can address whatever you want to the Ethics Committee,” said Anglace. “I’m not going to respond to whether what’s ethical because if you look into the history there’s developers meeting with P&Z administration and others, it’s all a part of their process. It’s been done many times in the past… That’s not my area so I won’t answer for them. I’m not saying they’re right or wrong, but they must be allowed if they’ve done it so many times. My job is to make sure there is a board in place and I am working on it.”