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McAnanly better choice in Stonington

Published October 31. 2013 4:00AM   Updated October 31. 2013 10:05AM

Our July 17 editorial, referencing the tawdry lawsuit looming over the race for first selectman in Stonington, noted that unless new information surfaced it would be a non-issue in the campaign. A woman alleged that in January 2010 First Selectman Ed Haberek electronically sent her a naked photo of himself, causing her great distress. Mr. Haberek denied the allegations made by the woman, Tracy Swain. He did so again as recently as Oct. 24 during a debate with this Republican challenger, Glee McAnanly.

"I vehemently deny the allegations that this individual has (made)," the first selectman said of Ms. Swain.

It was a "she said, he said" standoff, but as that editorial also observed, "It appears someone is lying."

Now more information has surfaced. While it can be argued that Mr. Haberek has not been lying, he does appear to have been telling half-truths, Bill Clintonesque in his use of denials that circle around the facts.

In a Sept. 26 deposition that has become public, he admits sending Ms. Swain an image of a naked man. "I imagine it was a pornographic ad type of thing," he testified. However, it was not a personal photo and he did not use a town computer or phone to send it, said Mr. Haberek.

Mr. Haberek's and Ms. Swain's depositions depict a sometimes graphic texting and email affair, never consummated. Moral judgments aside, this would normally come under the heading of personal business, separate from the duties of public office. The problem for Mr. Haberek is that his bad judgment and reckless behavior has also embroiled the town as a defendant in the Swain lawsuit. In addition, his less than candid responses to questions about the lawsuit over the past two years raise issues of integrity.

Had Mr. Haberek owned up to what happened from the start - assuming his latest contentions are true - voters would have been more apt to forgive and forget. Instead, he waited to be candid only when under oath and confronting perjury.

This episode is part of a pattern that raises concerns about the decision making and honesty of the Democratic incumbent.

In 2009 Mr. Haberek wrote a series of commentaries and blogs that lifted entire passages from the writings of others, without giving proper credit.

This past May, ignoring the request of police officers, he intervened in a volatile dispute at which the town's inland wetlands officer was serving a cease-and-desist order on an irate resident.

Information that surfaced this fall raised questions whether Mr. Haberek was skirting town policy in his use of a town vehicle and in obtaining reimbursement for expenses beyond his $6,000 expense account.

His administration has repeatedly denied and delayed granting Freedom of Information requests, even when the law was clear the documents sought were in the public realm, most recently in August, denying a request for a harassment claim made by an employee against Mr. Haberek.

Taken individually, each of this matters could be dismissed as a mistake or rationalized as an honest disagreement, but collectively they raise serious concerns.

For these reasons The Day, though having endorsed Mr. Haberek in the past for his communication skills, economic development efforts, fiscal restraint and handling of emergencies, cannot do so again.

In Glee McAnanly, voters have a viable alternative. Given her four years of service as selectwoman, she has the experience to move into the first chair. She vows to be an engaged first selectwoman, attending key meetings, and giving particular attention to strategic planning and to updating the Plan of Conservation and Development.

Ms. McAnanly promises to fill vacancies on and reactivate the Ethics Commission, making ethical behavior a cornerstone of her administration. Her management style, she says, will be one of mutual respect and communication.

The Day endorses Glee McAnanly for first selectwoman of Stonington.

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