New London Board of Ethics urged to drop Buscetto inquiry

New London - Reid Burdick, who has held elective and appointed positions in city government, has lodged a complaint with the city's Board of Ethics, saying its members have a host of conflicts of interest that would make it impossible to rule fairly on a complaint against City Council Michael Buscetto III.

"To the Ethics Board of the City of New London," he wrote in a letter he delivered to the City Clerk Monday, "Kindly accept this ethics complaint against the entire Board of Ethics of the City of New London should you proceed with any complaint made concerning City Councilor Michael Buscetto or any other member of this City Council."

Burdick said in his complaint that board members Eunice Waller, K. Robert Lewis, Brian Giesing, Sheila McCarthy and Denis Downing should recuse themselves from investigating any complaint against Buscetto, who lost a primary last week for the Democratic mayoral nomination, or any councilor.

Chief of Police Margaret Ackley has lodged an ethics complaint naming Buscetto. Burdick said the matter should be turned over to the city attorney, who he suggested should deliver it to an outside agency for investigation.

"Any further inquiry by this Board ... is either improper or gives the appearance of impropriety," Burdick wrote. "Either way, you are in conflict with your duty."

Burdick noted that Lewis is a former officer and member of the New London Republican Town Committee who offered support to the mayoral candidate of the opposing party.

"I have no comment until we discuss the complaint," Lewis said. "Obviously, everyone is entitled to an opinion. If he has a complaint about us he should file it with the administration committee of the City Council. I appreciate his concern, but I have no comment."

Burdick said board member Waller expressed her personal support for Ackley in the media.

"Someone on the board suggested to me that might be a problem," Waller said. "I said, 'If that's the case, I just won't go to the meetings.' I'll recuse from this issue by a simple request from any citizen. They need only to speak up publicly.

"And if someone has a complaint about me serving on the board, I will give up my seat readily, quickly and cheerfully, before I give up the right to express myself in public. That's the most important right in my life. I'm sorry if what I do or say disturbs someone's feelings, I really apologize for that. But I cannot give up my right to speak publicly."

Burdick said Downing is on record criticizing the council and that Giesing, a Republican council candidate, has a conflict because he supported a mayoral candidate other than Buscetto. Neither Giesing nor Downing could not be reached for comment.

Burdick said board member McCarthy, a member of the Democratic Town Committee, participated in endorsing Buscetto.

"As for ethics and professionalism, anything and everything related to our board is confidential," McCarthy said Monday evening.

She acknowledged that a person can make a complaint public but challenged that logic. "If this is a complaint to the ethics board, how is it that the press has it before we do?"

Burdick wrote that his filing was not intended to impugn the reputations of the board members but rather to support fair and impartial investigations.

c.potter@theday.com

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