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Board Of Ethics Agrees That PZC Members "Violated Code of Ethics"

Conflict of interest was clear in their role in approving the application of attorney John Watts' building.

The town's Board of Ethics voted unanimously that two members of the town's Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) "breached the trust of the public and violated section IV - Conflict of Interest of the Town of Clinton Code of Ethics by participating in the discussions and vote on the resubmitted John Watts site plan application."

PZC members in question, Lisa MacDonald (R - term to November 1, 2013) and Cynthia Watts (R - term to November 1, 2013) were not present at the meeting held March 6.

The town's Board of Ethics, a volunteer group appointed by the Board of Selectmen, is composed of Chairman Kenneth McDonnell, Carol Anderson, John Critchley, Bonnie Fillion and Christopher Horvath.

On Feb. 1 they agreed that there was

The complaint against the two women was initiated by resident Peggy Adler who felt they had violated the town's code of ethics and had strong conflicts of interest when they approved, as members of the PZC, an application by the brother of Cynthia Watts for a building located at 186 East Main Street in Clinton.  MacDonald's conflict of interest, said Adler, came due to her role as the spouse of John Watts' architect for the same project.

Adler said "the system works," after hearing of the Ethics Board's decision. "My hope is that they (MacDonald and Watts) will resign."

If you are wondering what happens next, so were others at the meeting including the members of the Board of Ethics.

There was discussion of the Planning & Zoning Commission revisiting the application and re-voting on the revised application.

"We are charged with determining if there was a breach of ethics, or not," noted McDonnell, who said the next step is to forward their findings to their authority (in this case the Board of Selectmen) and to the Planning & Zoning Commission, the complainant (Adler) and the two respondents (MacDonald and Watts).

The respondents could appeal the decision to the Superior Court.

The full memorandum of decision by the Ethics Board is attached in a .pdf file.

Vindaloo March 07, 2012 at 02:31 PM
I am very interested in learning more about the "town hall arranged land swap". From what I understand, the RT 1 land was swapped for a much less valuable piece of land. If that is true, shouldn't that mean that he owes the town quite a bit of money for that land his office is sitting on? It would be interesting to check out the land records on the two properties.
Martin Shapiro March 07, 2012 at 04:09 PM
And what about the chairman of the P&Z Commission? (Name?) Why did he allow the vote to be taken, even after the conflicted members were challenged by others? Why didn't the members who challenged the two - walk out of the meeting, denying a quorum for the vote? And the complicity of the BOS in denying the Police Commission their challenge? What about that? What and Who arranged the swap in the first place? Why was it done so secretly. Why was the financial consideration so advantageous to Watts? This incident exposes the entire rotten core of this towns administration. It can no longer be "Boss Tweed business as usual." The citizens of Clinton are now watching closely. The internet allows widespread distribution of information in a nano-second. We need the State's Attorney to investigate and bring appropriate charges against ALL those who knowingly conspired in this farce, defrauding the citizens and taxpayers of the Town of Clinton.
Jay March 07, 2012 at 05:22 PM
The reason is simple - nice people - normal people do not do the things you suggested. The motion was moved , seconded and agreed upon. Meeting procedure does not allow the chair to pull a hissy fit . As far a secret, etc - the fact you did not know about it does not mean it was secret - check the local papers at the time, read the minutes and search the agendas for proof of your claims. "Boss Tweed" charges are nonsense - show how anyone on the BoS made anything - the republicans have been peddling that slander for years but strange thing their republicans selectman went along with it -- Now the truth is the whole deal is weird starting with that monstrosity of a police building - that is the real $$$ Million scandal not the few thousands you are all whining about. No wonder your candidates lose all the time.
gary smith March 07, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Sounds like there could be fraudulent conveyance issues here .... no?
Martina Jakober March 07, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I was surprised the Board of Ethics did not make the recommendation to have the issue reviewed by the State's Attorney's office. Hopefully the town attorney will review the case at hand. Personally, I feel the approval should be revoted on in reference to the second phase and the driveway. The driveway is a serious safety concern for the police and patrons of the Watt business. It will only intensify the safety risks if more buildings are built and allowed to use the police access driveway. I can not see how revisiting these approvals, which were begotten in a fraudulent and deceptive manner, would be anything but necessary and fair to the town. There has not been enough public information on this land swap and I think that an FOI is in order to determine how this occurred and if any transgressions were made.
Vindaloo March 07, 2012 at 07:56 PM
We trust the members of the P&Z and other officials of the town to make decisions in our best interest, it can be considered criminal when their actions jeopardize the safety of our community and our environment. This type of transaction goes on from time to time behind the scenes. There was an incident of a not so legitimate land sale in my neighborhood that we had to fight for years. There is also the case of the change of use of Nichol's junk yard to a metal recycling facility. That change dramatically affected a residential neighborhood and no one went through the proper channels to obtain their permits. As a member of 2 land use commissions, I never saw this Watts swap passed by either of the commissions I attend. The decision as to whether the trade would have benefits to the town economically and environmentally should have passed through several channels before decision. I consider this transaction theft. My point is that this type of business has been going on for a long time in this town and hopefully taking serious action against these practices will help put a stop to it. With Clinton Patch and other internet sources, information easily gets around. That might scare a few people into changing their ways. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s just crooked.
Martina Jakober March 07, 2012 at 08:14 PM
I was glad I was able to make it to the meeting last night and I too feel the board members did a great job in their investigation. I think they were tasked with a job that many did not want to handle and thoroughly investigated all sides. I could definitely tell that some wished to provide input on possible sanctions last night but were advised to hold back until they receive a response from the BOS and P&Z. I look forward to the next meeting.
R Kirouac March 07, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Even if you feel that these individuals felt they were not committing violations, one thing, I believe, we can agree on: that public trust in the integrity of the Zoning Commission has been damaged. No Government or Commission can effectively function without the public's trust. According to the Clinton Town Charter, The Board of Selectmen (BOS) shall direct and supervise the affairs of the Town and shall be responsible for coordinating the activities of Boards and Commissions. Accordingly, BOS and the Chairman of Planning and Zoning (P&Z) are responsible to make sure that the P&Z does not remain under a cloud of suspicion. I am told, but am not sure, that the Selcetmen nor the head of P&Z has authority to remove these individuals. However, as leaders of the Town and Commission, they have an obligation to do everything to reestablish the public's trust in the P&Z. They are compelled to call for the resignations of these individuals. Failure to do so would be a failure to leed, a failure to govern and a failure to send a clear message to the citizens of Clinton of how important the integrity of the Towns Institutions are to them. Remaining silent should not be an option. Even if both individuals continue to think they acted ethically, they should clearly see that their continued participation in the P&Z will do nothing but harm the Town and the Commission they serve on. If they do not resign, the BOS should do whatever they have to do to remove them.
Kirk Carr March 07, 2012 at 11:14 PM
You can find links to download land records and much much more about this episode at: http://gocta.org/Watts_Ethics_Info.html
Kirk Carr March 08, 2012 at 09:25 AM
The complete memorandum of decision is posted at: http://gocta.org/Watts_Ethics_Info.html Find this long with lots of videos, including three segments of the Board of Selectmen refusing to support the Police Commission's appeal. The Town Counsel, John Bennet, who argues against appeal is Kenneth McDonnell's, the chair of the Board of Ethics, partner. see: http://www.gould-larson.com/index.htm Does anybody know what Mr. Bennet's role as Town Counsel might have been in the land transaction at 186 Main Street?
susan alon March 08, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Fay, Have repeatedly asked you for full disclosure of the swap of properties and the personalities, i.e. our elected reps, involved. Especially important is how the town received the property in the first place. And am sorry to all those who are sick of this mess, if we do not want another one, and we have had similar in the past, we should revisit Watts and the protocols. Watts, with cooperation that has proved unethical, gained him land, despite Police complaints? How is that? And what is he selling the neighboring piece for? Watts a former respected attorney has gamed the system. If the brand of cronyism that is creeping over our trust in elected officials includes this gentleman, that in itself should be enough to revisit 'swap' from town hall. So please provide the details on the real estate transactions, as Catherine has inquired. You would be doing a service to all of us.
susan alon March 08, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Applause, Applause
susan alon March 08, 2012 at 07:25 PM
It is theft, graft, greed, and influence if I have to pass that office and available sign at least twice a day I applaud those who want this matter pursued, no wonder our mill rate is so high, and for what? And if state officials need to be involved, so be it. Let's have some sunlight.
VIN CIMINO March 08, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Exactly, Susan. Do you think the town could have used the hundreds of thousands of dollars it should have received for that prime commercial land? So, why wasn't it sold at auction?? Our budgets continue to escalate, leading to ever-increasing taxes while the administration is giving away valuable property and failing to maintain our municipal buildings, ultimately resulting in major repairs becoming necessary or, worse, total replacement. That's not responsible stewardship of town property. Shame on us for not keeping a closer eye on the administration in the past but now, with the help of people like the Clinton Taxpayer Association, we can more closely monitor these decisions. Corruption cannot be tolerated and I look forward to seeing how the BOS will address the Watts situation now that the Ethics commission has concluded it's investigation nad made their findings public.
Kirk Carr March 08, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Listen to the PZC meeting that triggered this investigation on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vlHvYRIAKQ That and more is available at: http://gocta.org/Watts_Ethics_Info.html
TrueClinton March 09, 2012 at 12:49 AM
If all is fair Ms. Adler, when will your Ethics hearing be scheduled? I really believe your actions come in direct conflict with your seat on Police Commission.
Phil Sengle March 09, 2012 at 04:43 PM
A frequent thread of thought here (sometimes attack) is to attack the messenger. I also think Peggy Adler is brave no matter what anyone thinks of her. While she is brave, the cowards attack her using a pseudonym. So why would anyone attack Ms. Adler. Either out of personal vengence or of course to distract as many voters as possible from the original sin - the town hall orchestrated land swap that caused this chain of events under the supervision of our First Selectman.
ellen stankiewicz March 10, 2012 at 02:31 AM
thanks cathy! change of use? not according to p&z. a junkyard and metal recycling facility are the same. i beg to differ!! please,everyone! take a ride down and see what they've snuck into our neighborhood. non stop noise,building without permits, different hours of operation.what are my rights? we have no noise ordinance in this town are u kidding me? somebody help me.
Kirk Carr March 10, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Please flag all anonymous posts that attack Peggy Adler as inappropriate. People should not be permitted personal attacks who won't identify themselves.
Vindaloo March 10, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Vince, thanks for the advice, and I have nothing personally against our agents in the land use department, but, don't you think that road has been taken????
Vindaloo March 10, 2012 at 10:11 PM
The neighbors affected asked many questions, but weren't very satisfied with the answers and don't feel as though their concerns were addressed. From what I understand about this issue, I don't believe they were either.
Kirk Carr April 16, 2012 at 10:00 PM
The ethics episode continues to stir. Interesting how differently the Board of Selectmen and Planning and Zoning Commission deal with this. Board of Selectmen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Tgx69KqQ4 The board of selectmen sidesteps their authority to nullify this decision and refers it to Planing and Zoning, which as yet has not been communicated to them and for which they have no authority anyway. And Planing and Zoning http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkRQBAjhdHQ Warning - John Main's 1 hour and 20 minute filibuster is sad and painful to watch. His attempts to impune the ethics of the ethics board are far fetched, ridiculous and probably the product of information fed to him by one or more of the respondents. He admits he is unsure if these allegations are factual. During the last 40 minutes some commissioners circle the wagons and urge the two stay or to make up their own minds. Ultimately the motion to ask them to resign is tabled to give them a last opportunity to resign with dignity and on their own volition. If they don't, the motion probably won't pass anyway. But the camera will be rolling. Stay tuned.
Kirk Carr April 16, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Here is a link to the Board of Selectmen's letters to the respondents: https://www.yousendit.com/dl?phi_action=app/orchestrateDownload&rurl=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.yousendit.com%252Ftransfer.php%253Faction%253Dbatch_download%2526send_id%253D1466126153%2526email%253D3b8a731d96efa1fb39d205a22429a613
VIN CIMINO April 17, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Susan and Martin, you're absolutely right. The entire Watts matter requires further scrutiny. I can tell you that John Watts made several attempts to purchase the parcel from the town while McCusker was First Selectman. He made ridiculously low offers like $30-40 thousand dollars. They were not seriously considered. The parcel was identified as having important future potential for the town, including for community septics. After Fritz took office, Cynthia Watts represented her brother in further attempts to get the land from the town. The "swap" proposal was sent to the BOF and P&Z, but neither was shown any contract nor were they allowed to ask any questions. They were not told about the easements, either. They were asked to merely consider the "concept" of a swap. No appraisals were ever done. There was no publicity. The entire matter is extremely suspect. P&Z chairmain John Main really pushed through the approval, as can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vlHvYRIAKQ. He argued and then practically overruled those who tried to explain that he was completely incorrect. Now, he is monopolizing the P&Z meeting in an attempt to prevent the Commission from calling for the resignation of Watts and McDonald. He is completely violating Roberts Rules of Order, which state that the chairman moderates the meeting but does not engage in debate. He must be removed.
VIN CIMINO April 17, 2012 at 02:24 PM
P&Z chairman, John Main, is completely violating Roberts Rules of Order, which state that he must moderate a meeting but not engage in debate. To argue for an hour and twenty minutes is inappropriate. Why is he suggesting that P&Z oppose the opinions of the Board of Ethics, the Board of Selectmen, the New Haven Register and the community? He is a complete embarassment and a big reason why P&Z looks so ridiculous right now. He must be removed immediately if the public is to have any trust in the Commission whatsoever.
Martin Shapiro April 17, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Hi Martin Shapiro, VIN CIMINO commented on Board Of Ethics Agrees That PZC Members "Violated Code of Ethics" "Susan and Martin, you're absolutely right. The entire Watts matter requires further scrutiny. I can tell you that John Watts made several attempts to purchase the parcel from the town while McCusker was First Selectman. He made ridiculously low offers like $30-40 thousand dollars. They were not seriously considered. The parcel was identified as having important future potential for the town, including for community septics. After Fritz took office, Cynthia Watts represented her brother in further attempts to get the land from the town. The "swap" proposal was sent to the BOF and P&Z, but neither was shown any contract nor were they allowed to ask any questions. They were not told about the easements, either. They were asked to merely consider the "concept" of a swap. No appraisals were ever done. There was no publicity. The entire matter is extremely suspect. P&Z chairmain John Main really pushed through the approval, as can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vlHvYRIAKQ. He argued and then practically overruled those who tried to explain that he was completely incorrect. Now, he is monopolizing the P&Z meeting in an attempt to prevent the Commission from calling for the resignation of Watts and McDonald. He is completely violating Roberts Rules of Order, which state that the chairman moderates the meeting but does not engage in debate. He must be removed."
Jim Braun April 18, 2012 at 02:26 AM
I'm going to come clean here....I'm an "everybody"...just like the majority of people in this town....my definition of an everybody is someone who gets up in the morning, raises my kids, goes to work, and has no agenda other than to make ends meet, raise my kids, and wants to be left alone to accomplish that. I watched this ridiculous video and I can summarize it one sentence as follows: muddy the water enough to hopefully make everything disappear. Are you serious? If I were in a position to put something in front of this comission would I feel they looked at it through clear lenses? Heck no. This looks like the most dysfunctional bunch of "who knows whos" I've ever seen. I subscribe to "keep it simple stupid". I always have and always will. Do you know the person coming before you? Do you have a relationship (of any sort) with them? If so, bow out. Get it? If there are problems with other boards or public officials, put them in front of the ethics commission rather than be the most eely person in town. Enough said. Multiple wrongs don't make it right. If there are other problems, address them separately.
Kirk Carr April 18, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Board of selectmen get a report. See it on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8P9wF58x_c
VIN CIMINO April 20, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Very, very disturbing. This commission has several members that are completely unqualified and should not be there. Following the unanimous finding by the Ethics Commission that Watts and McDonald had violated the public trust by refusing to recuse themselves on John Watts' application, the online poll indicated that 89% of the respondents want Watts and McDonald off the Commission immediately. In typical style, they are refusing to resign and now chairman Main is urging that the other members refrain from asking them to resign. Unbelievable. Read the New Haven Register editorial (4/3/12). Read the letter from the BOS. It's obvious that P&Z is a completely disfunctional commission led by a disfunctional chairman. This nonsense must end if P&Z is to restore any public trust at all.
Phil Sengle May 08, 2012 at 11:37 AM
The RTC has called for the resignations of Watts and MacDonald. In case you missed it here is the link: http://clinton.patch.com/articles/clinton-republicans-call-for-their-own-to-resign-from-p-z

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