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Ackley backer Waller isn't recusing herself from ethics board for Buscetto hearing

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published November 04. 2011 4:00AM

New London - The former mayor of New London, who has been on the Board of Ethics for more than 10 years, said Thursday she will participate in proceedings involving a dispute between a city councilor and the police chief, despite being accused of having a conflict of interest.

Eunice Waller, who has publicly supported Police Chief Margaret Ackley, said Wednesday she will not recuse herself from the Nov. 16 ethics board hearing. The board is set to hear testimony on Ackely's charge that City Councilor Michael Buscetto III violated the city's Code of Ethics when he participated in closed-door City Council meetings involving complaints the chief made against him.

"Because I have an opinion doesn't mean I can't hear the case,'' Waller said Thursday. "I didn't do anything wrong. ... I had a right to express myself.''

Waller made comments in support of Ackley at a City Council meeting in September, before Ackley had filed her complaint with the ethics board.

Waller added that she will check with the state Board of Ethics. She initially said she could step down if asked to do so, when a member of the public raised the conflict issue in September.

Buscetto, who is running as a write-in candidate for mayor, requested Wednesday that four members of the ethics board - Chairman K. Robert Lewis, Dennis Downing, Brian Giesing and Waller - step down from the proceedings because of conflicts of interest.

Giesing, who is running for City Council, agreed to recuse himself, because if he is elected on Tuesday, he would not be able to continue on the board.

Lewis and Downing declined.

If all four members had recused themselves, there would have been no quorum Wednesday night and the proceedings could not have gone forward.

In a separate inquiry, the City Council has hired a retired Superior Court judge to investigate allegations that Buscetto interfered with police department business. Ackley appeared before the council this past summer and complained about Buscetto's behavior and threatened a lawsuit.

Ackley filed the ethics complaint after that meeting, alleging that Buscetto should not have participated in the discussion.

The ethics board hearing is set to begin at 5 p.m. Nov. 16. A second hearing date has been set for 5 p.m. Nov. 30.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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