Woman involved in ethics complaint resigns from city commissions

Norwich — The former volunteer City Hall docent who faces an ethics complaint for reading the mayor's confidential mail resigned Thursday from two city commissions, hoping that will end the ethics complaint and pending hearing against her.

Joanne Philbrick submitted a letter Thursday to the city clerk's office resigning from both the Personnel and Pension Board and the Harbor Management Commission. The Ethics Commission has scheduled a public hearing for July 31 on the complaint, but Philbrick hopes that will be canceled.

"I am hoping this will put the matter to bed," Philbrick said Thursday.

Ethics Commission Chairman Robert Davidson said Thursday that the hearing likely will be postponed to allow the commission time to determine whether her resignation should lead to dismissal of the complaint.

Complainant Bonnie Cuprak, Mayor Peter Nystrom's secretary, had asked the Ethics Commission to recommend that Philbrick be removed from her appointed positions on the harbor management and pension boards.

Asked if she would withdraw the complaint, Cuprak said Thursday that she would leave it up to the Ethics Commission to decide how to proceed.

"All I asked for is for her to be removed from the commissions," Cuprak said.

The commission's rules and procedures allow it to decide not to continue to review a matter "if the person who is the subject of the complaint is no longer an official, officer or employee of the city."

In her resignation letter, Philbrick said she disputed some of the accusations in Cuprak's complaint, including a contention that Philbrick told City Manager Alan Bergren that she "was shown" the letter in question. Philbrick said she told the city manager that she "had seen the info."

Cuprak's complaint included a segment of the City Hall video showing Philbrick removing the interoffice mail envelope from the mayor's mailbox, untying the string and reading the letter. Philbrick admitted reading the letter but said it was not marked "confidential" and reading interoffice mail was accepted practice.

In her resignation letter, Philbrick also questioned why she never received the original notification of Cuprak's ethics complaint. Commission rules require notification be sent to the respondent within five days to allow the subject of an ethics complaint to respond in time for the commission's closed-door meeting.

"If this information had been presented to me in what I believe to be the appropriate manner, I would have resigned without question, because it would be the right thing to do," Philbrick wrote.

She concluded by saying she will not "be disappearing" as a city government watchdog.

"I feel as a citizen, voter and taxpayer that I have a right and responsibility to express my views and concerns, be they positive or negative," she wrote.

c.bessette@theday.com

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