Town Attorney’s Findings on Alleged Ethics Violation

Town Attorney’s Findings on Alleged Ethics Violation

On July 20, 2011 Bethel resident Daniel R. Gaita filed an ethics complaint claiming the Town Charter was violated due to nearly $3,000,000 in unauthorized transfers from the Town’s General Fund. Click here to read.

Town Attorney Martin Lawlor responded to the Ethics Commission on his findings regarding the alleged ethics violation. Below is his response from a letter dated August 3, 2011 and addressed to the Ethics Commission, released from the office of the First Selectman:

Dear Chairman Kelly:                                                                                      August 3, 2011

In connection with the above referenced matter and correspondence received from you on behalf of the Ethics Commission dated July 29, 2011, I will attempt to respond to the Commission’s questions.

As to item No. 1, I would agree with the Commission’s initial assessment that the matter is outside of the jurisdiction of the Code of Ethics when one reviews Chapter 8-3 Prohibited Acts. The question that has been raised is whether or not the “loaning” of fund’s from the Town’s general cash flow, not only for the Water and Sewer Department but also for the Transfer Station as well, is in violation of the Charter. I have spoken to the Comptroller regarding this matter who in turn has spoken to auditors who concluded that this is not considered a “transfer” which would result in a problem under the Town of Bethel’s Charter. In addition, this is not a new or unusual matter since the loaning of funds are clearly set forth in the auditor’s report and have been for many years without question from the auditors.

Therefore, I would agree with you that “financial matters” as handled by the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and/or the Office of the Comptroller are outside the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction and the ethics provisions themselves were not intended to address this matter.

Although it is my belief that this matter is outside the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission, I think it noteworthy that I comment regarding your reference to Chapter 8-3 A (6) concerning the granting of any special considerations, treatments or advantages to citizens beyond what is available to other citizens. Even if one would assume that this was a subject matter within the jurisdiction of the Commission, the circumstances as I know the in regards to both the sewer, water and transfer departments are that there have been no special considerations, treatments or advantages given to any citizen over another. Although some citizens have received a more direct benefit for these departments, all of the citizens of the Town of Bethel have shared in the benefits from each of these departments. The vast majority of Town buildings, including those in the education park receive municipal water and municipal sewer for the benefit of all the citizens of Bethel.  In addition, the same holds true for the use of the transfer station. The Town’s refuse is deposited at the transfer station.

If the Commission has any further questions or comments concerning this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Very Truly Yours,

Martin J. Lawlor, Jr.

Chairman Kelly had no comment for Bethel Buzz regarding the matter.

First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker stated: “There has been no violation of Town Charter. Voters should be investigating why the Board of Finance did not look at the audit.”

“Bob Kozlowski is the CEO for both the Town of Bethel and the Public Utilities Commission.  His job is to handle financial affairs and pay bills for both entities. They don’t find out about this until the end of the year when the audit company prepares financial statements.  $45,000 was paid to this audit company and they [the Board of Finance] claim they’ve never read it,” Knickerbocker said.

Knickerbocker said he would not call a town meeting regarding this matter and that the Public Utilities Commission has already created a “brand new capital plan.” They have put a rate increase structure in place and residents will soon be paying 35% more on their water bill when the rates go up on January 1, 2012.

“The rates did not go up for 20 years. The last time the rates were increased was in 1988. Burke raised them in 2008 and was supposed to increase them again the following year but didn’t. This is a problem that no one fixed,” Knickerbocker said.

The recommendation was to increase rates by 20% in 2008, again by 20% the following year and in smaller increments the following years, however, Knickerbocker stated that former First Selectman Bob Burke did not follow through with the plan. The 35% increase will cover the losses to the general fund, Knickerbocker said.

On August 11, 2011 Gaita proposed creating a Charter Enforcement Committee to investigate claims of charter violations. Click here to read more.

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Posted on August 14, 2011, in Local and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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