Responding to an editorial cartoon
The cartoon by Kevin Markowski, published in the Record Journal Editorial page on October 21, 2023 is an unfortunate characterization of a situation which has received more attention than it ever should have.
Here are the details: Jon Gavin, owner of United Concrete, contributed to my campaign. The contribution must be accompanied by a form (in this case, the contribution was made online). In addition to other information, the donor must check a box indicating whether or not the donor, or his business, has a contract with the town, the value of which is more than $5,000.
Mr. Gavin’s contribution form had neither box checked. My treasurer relied upon the incomplete form and made the wrong assumption. If I had reviewed the treasurer’s report, I would not have caught the error because, at that time, I had no personal knowledge of the contractor’s business relationship with the town. The contribution form is going to be resubmitted as corrected, allowing my treasurer to amend the report.
The Wallingford Code of Ethics provides that, “all complaints, probable cause investigations and hearings shall be kept confidential by all parties and the Board prior to a determination of probable cause; the complainant's failure to maintain the confidentiality of the complaint is cause to dismiss the complaint without investigation or ruling unless the Board, for good cause shown, determines that the complaint should not be dismissed. Respondent may waive the confidentiality of the complaint at any time.” Section 2011.D(4). That provision comes directly from the Connecticut State Statute requiring that a party who files an ethics complaint not disclose the existence of the complaint. That provision in the statute exists for the purpose of preventing politically motivated attackers from abusing the ethics process.
An ethics complaint was filed by Alida Cella, Democratic Town Committee chair, on September 22, 2023. The complaint alleged that I should have recused myself from the Town Council Vote on the settlement of the Gavin Properties tax appeal, before the Town Council on September 12, 2023. Within two weeks after the complaint was filed, exhibits attached to the complaint were posted on Facebook. The first time the Board of Ethics was to meet to review the allegations, October 11, 2023, the meeting had to be postponed for lack of a quorum. By October 12, 2023, the details of the cause for postponement, which details were only given to Ms. Cella and me, were published on Facebook. The Board was able to meet on Thursday, October 19, 2023 at 6:30 p.m. Earlier in that day on October 19, 2023, details about that meeting were published on Facebook.
The Board of Ethics met, reviewed the Cella complaint and dismissed it for two reasons: First, the Board found that there was no probable cause. The complaint lacked merit as there was no violation of the code of ethics. Second, the board dismissed the complaint because of evidence that Ms. Cella had published the complaint. The minutes reflect that the Board stressed the confidentiality of the matter should continue, given the findings. This should have ended any public discussion on the issue.
My opponent mailed out a large campaign advertisement that started hitting mailboxes on Monday, October 23, 2023. It boldly asserted that an ethics investigation revealed that I had accepted a campaign contribution in exchange for reducing the donor’s tax obligation. That statement is false. The Board of Ethics made no such finding. The resolution of the tax appeal (lawsuit) was negotiated between the town attorney and the Gavin Property’s attorney. It was presented to the entire council for approval of the settlement as is required by the Town Charter. Eight of eight members who sat through the matter voted to approve the settlement. If any political support from the donor were to preclude a councilor from voting on that tax appeal, only three councilors would have remained in the meeting, preventing settlement for lack of a quorum (six councilors).
My opponent keeps banging this drum, as recently as October 27, 2023, insisting that this situation makes me unfit to serve. This was even after he published a completely misleading representation of the action of the Board of Ethics. This is a person who insists upon substituting and imposing his own judgment on a situation, even after a legal authority (Board of Ethics) has met and resolved it in my favor and contrary to my opponent’s claim.
While it is disappointing that Mr. Markowski’s cartoon gives any credence to my opponent’s claim, we should be even more concerned about Mr. O’Co n n e l l’s insistence that something violates a rule when the proper legal authority has determined that it does not. Wallingford’s Charter provides that the mayor is the “Director of Public Safety,” overseeing the Police Department. The Director of Public Safety should understand the laws to be enforced, enforce them as written, and not improperly substitute his or her own judgment over the laws.
Vinny Cervoni is the Republican candidate for mayor in Wallingford.
By Vinny Cervoni
As published in the Record-Journal Weds. November 1st 2023
Responding to an editorial cartoon - Record-Journal (newsmemory.com)