Board rules a violation of code of ethics with solar project

Southington Democratic Town Committee Chair Edward Rosenblatt cross examines Town Councilor Tom Lombardi during the ethics hearing on Sept. 9.

Southington Democratic Town Committee Chair Edward Rosenblatt cross examines Town Councilor Tom Lombardi during the ethics hearing on Sept. 9.

By TAYLOR HARTZ
STAFF WRITER

In a 3-1 decision, the Board of Ethics decided Tuesday that “there was a breach of the Southington Code of Ethics” involving Town Councilor Tom Lombardi (R.)

The majority opinion, issued by members of the board Craig Simms (D), Philip Pomposi (D), and James Sinclair (R) concluded that Lombardi presented a conflict of interest when he took part in a June 22 Town Council decision, voting against a motion to revoke the approval of the meadow behind Hatton Elementary School as the site of a two-acre solar array.

An investigation began on a potential conflict of interest when the Community Coalition to Save Hatton Meadow brought a complaint to the board, citing a possible conflict of interest due to Lombardi’s employment under Robert Landino, the Chairman of the Board for Greenskies Renewable Energy, LLC, the company with which the town signed their solar contract.

Lombardi is employed as the Controller for Centerplan Development of which Landino is the CEO.

In May 2014 Lombardi recused himself from an initial vote involving the selection of Greenskies as the solar supplier, stating that he wished to do so because his employer (Landino) did business with the vendor involved in the decision.

In subsequent votes regarding the project, Lombardi did not recuse himself.

Town Attorney Mark Sciota discusses the conflict of interest.

Town Attorney Mark Sciota discusses the conflict of interest.

During a Board of Ethics hearing on the issue on Thursday Sept. 10, Lombardi told the board that he consulted Town Attorney Mark Sciota regarding his involvement in the project, and was advised that he could vote on policy decisions after the company was selected without presenting a conflict of interest.

The two complaints were filed by Edward M. Rosenblatt, Chairperson of the Southington Democratic Town Committee, on June 26 and John Bruetsch, a resident of the neighborhood near the meadow, on July 6.

For evidence, the complainants submitted several documents along with their statements describing their conflict of interest concerns.

Bruetsch provided recordings of Town Council meetings on May 27, 2014 and June 22, 2015.

Rosenblatt provided two documents from the websites of Centerplan Development Company and Greenskies, in which Landino is identified as CEO and Chairman of the Board, and Lombardi as Controller for Centerplan.

“All of the elements of a conflict of interest are present here,” said Rosenblatt after presenting his argument to the board Thursday.

The majority ruling states that Lombardi violated code of ethics 28-5A, which states that a conflict of interest exists if any member of a town agency is employed by or in business with an enterprise that will be affected by the outcome of a matter under their consideration.

During the hearing, Lombardi said that he chose to recuse himself in the May 2014 vote, but not following votes, because they concerned “two separate and distinct items.” He said the subsequent votes were policy decisions. The selection of Greenskies was not in question.

The majority decision stated that because Greenskies had a direct affiliation with Centerplan, Lombardi’s vote should not have been cast.

“Lombardi should have abstained from any other vote before the council regarding this vendor,” said the majority board members in their opinion.

In his dissent, board member Andrew Meade (R,) said that by consulting with the town attorney and recusing himself from the May 2014 vote “Lombardi was in full disclosure and acted accordingly.”

Meade added that be seeking advice from Sciota and Town Manager Garry Brumback, Lombardi “acted in an honorable manner.”

Town Councilor Tom Lombardi

Town Councilor Tom Lombardi

In the consensus opinion issued by all members, the board agreed that they are responsible are reviewing complaints and enforcing the town’s Code of Ethics, and does not mean for their vote to act as “an indictment of Mr. Lombardi’s character of commitment to the best interests of the town of Southington.”

The board recommended that the Town Council review the decision, and notify all elected and appointed officials of the Board of Ethics’ position regarding a violation of the town’s ethical code.

The majority also recommended to the Town Council that Lombardi “not participate in any further deliberation and voting regarding the Greenskies Renewable Energy project.”

Neither Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio nor Town Attorney Mark Sciota could be reached for comment by press time regarding whether any further action will be taken on the issue.

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