To the editor:
Come on, enough is enough. In the Dec. 18 Observer, staff writer Taylor Hartz wrote a shocking article, Lombardi seeks reimbursement for attorney fees. He noted that, “Attorneys for Town Councilor, Tom Lombardi (R) filed a claim for $28,217 in attorney fees incurred by the councilor during an ethics investigation earlier this year.” Taylor goes on to write that “the claim requests that the Town of Southington reimburse Lombardi for the costs paid to three lawyers for his representation during the Board of Ethics (BOE) hearing and appeal.”
In no way should our town pay these attorney fees. First of all, it should be asked why Lombardi needed three law firms to prepare his appeal? Secondly, why did he not enquire beforehand what the anticipated costs would be? Did he presume that the town would automatically pay them whatever they were?
I agree with Town Attorney Mark Sciota “that Lombardi had every right to bring an attorney to the Sept. 9 hearing and the Oct. 20 appeal.” However, Mark continues, “his claim had been denied by the town’s insurance carrier.”
In this same article it reported that Council Chairman, Michael Riccio, stated that, “if the town does not pay the councilor’s attorney fees, he fears others will be discouraged from serving public office due to potential financial burden.” Give me a break, Mike. There would have been no financial burden to Lombardi if he lost his appeal. As for others not wanting to run for office for fear of incurring a financial burden, all persons should be told that they must read the town’s code of ethics, so that they will be aware of the ethical implications of all measures they are asked to vote upon.
Let me take a moment to review this debacle. First, the fact that such an appeal was allowed to be brought before the Town Council for a final vote was, in my opinion, unethical. Second, since all of the Republican members of the Town Council reversed the Ethics Board’s decision (the Democrats recused themselves), this party-line vote was beyond absurd. It was ludicrous. This ought never happen again. Southington must revise its Code of Ethics. If it does not, we might as well tear up our present code since it serves no useful purpose. It is a sham.
When I lived in Westport, I was a member of the Representative Town Member (RTM) legislative group. We all ran for office with no political affiliation. Due to the fact that I minored in ethics for my bachelor’s degree, the RTM noted, they appointed me chairperson of a committee (a Professor of Ethics from Fairfield University also attended) to write a draft for a code of ethics.
At no time did our group ever recommend that the RTM—all 40 members—could vote on an appeal by an RTM member to have a Board of Ethics decision against him/her reversed. When it was discussed during our committee meetings, we all laughed and joked that it would be the same as a trial of a person convicted of espionage to have a jury made up of 12 known spies. We thought that the idea was preposterous.
Once again, I have no problem with Tom Lombardi getting legal assistance on his appeal—that is his right. Asking the town to pay his legal expenses, is not.
Joan Jansen, Southington