Council hears comments on proposed ethics code changes

By JEN CARDINES

STAFF WRITER

The Southington Town Council held a public hearing during their Jan. 9 meeting regarding proposed modifications to the town’s Code of Ethics, drafted by the ordinance committee. Councilor Cheryl Lounsbury stated that the modifications were just a draft, and no action was taken by the Council that evening.

Changes to the Code of Ethics (Chapter 28 of the Town Charter) include the deletion of certain language, and a new addition requiring a statement of financial interests from all public officials, public employees appointed by Town Council or a town commission, and non-collective bargaining department heads.

The statement would disclose the following: property owned by them or their immediate family, names of businesses that they are associated with, names of all employers, names of specific clients and customers except where such information is privileged against disclosure under law or ethical standards who provide more than $10,000 of net income to any business with which the individual is associated with, the names of any corporation where the individual is more than five percent shareholder, and any leases/contracts with the Town held or entered into by the individual or a business for which he was associated.

Section 28-16 of the charter—the right to appeal—is also drafted for amendment with the entire section proposed for deletion. In its place, officials are proposing a new provision for appeals to be heard at the New Britain Superior Court.

Another proposal allows that the Town of Southington will reimburse attorney fees up to $10,000 for successful appeals.

The hearing allowed town residents to voice their opinion about the changes, but people who spoke to the Council were primarily elected and appointed town officials.

Board of Education (BOE) vice chair Terry Carmody addressed the councilors, asking them to consult with all boards in town before making changes to the code. She also said that she was upset no minutes from the ordinance committee were posted.

Lounsbury said that she takes responsibility for that because a personal matter hindered her from getting the minutes posted online.

In response, Town Council chair Michael Riccio asked that officials be notified whenever this item was up for discussion in a meeting.

BOE member Colleen Clark also approached the podium to say that the drafted policies are an insult to her judgment. Mary Baker of the fire commissioners said that the code amendments may deter people in town from running for office.

Zoning Board of Appeals member Joseph Pugliese said that he was offended when he read the proposed changes. “I don’t see the value that giving this information has,” he said.

Riccio said that the ordinance committee will take the public input into consideration as they continue to work on the document and another public hearing would be scheduled before any vote takes place.

“The communication will be forthcoming,” said Riccio.

The board will consider public comment before voting on the changes.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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