Outside law firm to investigate ethics complaint over Montville vendors ordinance

Montville - The town has hired an outside law firm to handle an ethics complaint filed in April by Independence for Montville Chairman James Andriote Sr.

The complaint named four Democratic town councilors - Billy Caron, Tim May, Laura Tanner and Chuck Longton - who voted in favor of amending an ordinance to decrease the required buffer between vendors and businesses that sell similar products.

Andriote said he believes the amendment was designed to benefit one individual - former Democratic Town Councilor Gary Murphy, who owns a hot dog cart - and accused the councilors of political favoritism.

Montville's code of ethics gives the Town Council authority to investigate ethics complaints filed against a town official. Council Chairman Joseph Jaskiewicz, a Democrat who was absent for the vote that prompted the complaint, asked Town Attorney Matthew Auger to handle the investigation because the majority of the council was implicated in the complaint.

But that action prompted a second complaint from Andriote, accusing Jaskiewicz of mishandling the complaint and claiming that it is a conflict of interest for Auger, the council's lawyer, to investigate a complaint about the council.

During its May 12 meeting, the Town Council authorized Mayor Ronald McDaniel to hire an outside firm to investigate the complaint. McDaniel said Thursday that attorney Ed O'Connell of Waller, Smith and Palmer will be looking into Andriote's concerns.

At that same Town Council meeting, Independence for Montville Councilor Kathy Pollard relayed a message from Andriote. If the council changed its vote on the vending ordinance, Andriote said, he would withdraw the complaint.

The councilors did not change their votes.

"I am not going to withdraw anything," said Andriote on Thursday - not his original complaint, and not the second complaint he filed against Jaskiewicz and Auger.

Part of what prompted the complaint against Jaskiewicz was that he did not send an acknowledgement of his receipt of the first complaint by the correct date. Jaskiewicz said the notification was late because he misread the regulations and called it an honest mistake.

"They're mishandling this whole situation," said Andriote, who said he has not been contacted by anyone since he filed the complaints, and said he never received a notification that Jaskiewicz received his second complaint.

Jaskiewicz said he did not send a letter acknowledging the second complaint because he thought it was a non-issue once the town hired an independent law firm.

"I thought we took care of that," he said Thursday.

k.catalfamo@theday.com

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