By TAYLOR HARTZ
The Town Council voted along party lines on Jan. 25 to reimburse Councilor Tom Lombardi (R), for legal fees associated with allegations of Lombardi’s violation of the town’s code of ethics.
In a motion brought forward by Councilor Ed Pocock (R), Republicans Pocock, Lounsbury, Triano, Champagne, and Riccio voted in favor of a $25, 380 reimbursement.
The motion passed 5-3, with Democrats Miceli, Palmieri, and Barry opposing, and Lombardi recused from the vote.
Lombardi’s attorneys filed a claim on Nov. 30, requesting that the Town of Southington reimburse the cost of the three firms who represented the councilor. Lombardi exercised his right to representation during the Board of Ethics hearing on Sept. 15 and his appeal of the decision on Oct. 20, totaling $28, 200 in legal fees.
Town Attorney Mark Sciota said in December that the reimbursement claim had been denied by the town’s insurer.
At the Jan. 25 meeting, Pocock referenced Connecticut General Statute 7-101a as the basis for his motion and vote. The statute requires “protection of municipal officers and municipal employees from damage suits” and “reimbursement of defense expenses.”
Former Board of Ethics member Craig Simms, a Republican, resigned from his position after the Town Council voted to vacate the ethics decision. On Jan. 25, he spoke before the council to discuss the reimbursement. Simms stated that the statute should not apply to Lombardi, because he was not sued, and therefore was not defending himself against litigation.
He argued that it was Lombardi’s choice to exercise his right to an appeal and therefore incur the legal costs, and that there was no public benefit to the appeal.
The statute states that any elected official should be protected from any financial loss or legal fees “arising out of any claim, demand, suit or judgment” caused by alleged negligence or infringement of civil rights that an official incurs while “acting in the discharge of his duties.”
After an executive session, Pocock moved to reimburse $25,380 of Lombardi’s $28,200 claim.
“The statute says you get reimbursed,” said Pocock, “There is not even a choice in this.”