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Norwich volunteer who was banned from commissions for reading mayor's mail questions decision

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published January 15. 2013 4:00AM   Updated January 15. 2013 2:23PM

Norwich - The former City Hall volunteer docent found in violation of the city ethics ordinance last summer for reading the mayor's interoffice mail questioned an Ethics Commission ruling Monday that she cannot serve on city agencies in the future.

Five months after the Ethics Commission ruled that Joanne Philbrick violated the city code of ethics and wrote in a decision that she not seek future appointment to city commissions, Philbrick appeared before the commission and complained that the ruling was inappropriate and possibly illegal.

She told the commission Monday that she would like to seek appointment to city commissions and also complained that the commission violated its own rules during her case first by not properly notifying her that a complaint was filed.

She added that the commission should have dismissed the case entirely when she resigned, but instead went ahead with the hearing against "a private citizen."

"Where does someone go to complain about the Ethics Commission?" Philbrick said.

The Ethics Commission ruled in August that Philbrick violated the ethics code by opening a string-tied envelope placed in Mayor Peter Nystrom's mailbox that at the time was located behind the docent desk in the City Hall lobby.

The mayor's secretary filed the ethics complaint after viewing a videotape showing Philbrick opening the envelope.

Philbrick, who also was a member of the Personnel and Pension Board, admitted the "mistake" during an ethics hearing and resigned both as a docent and from the pension board. At the time, she told the commission she did not intend to seek future appointments.

But on Monday she objected to the open-ended prohibition placed by the commission.

"I would have accepted a one-year or a five-year moratorium," she said. "I'm not down and out yet. I feel I have a lot to offer to the city on a board or commission."

The commission Monday did not discuss her comments, and Chairman Robert Davidson declined to comment after the meeting.

c.bessette@theday.com

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