Montville ethics complaint ignites debate at meeting

Montville - Remarks about an ethics complaint recently filed by Republican Town Councilor Thomas McNally dominated the public comment period at the end of Monday's Town Council meeting, with most speakers lashing out against McNally.

In the complaint lodged last week against Democratic Town Councilors Tim May, Billy Caron and Joe Jaskiewicz and Water Pollution Control Authority Administrator Brian Lynch, McNally alleged that the four town officials had used town WPCA funds to participate in a golf tournament benefiting Project Graduation. McNally also questioned the legality of the WPCA's donation that he believed was made for the golf tournament.

WPCA member Tony Siragusa said during Monday's public comment that he was unaware that the WPCA had donated money and was glad McNally's complaint brought the expenditure to light.

"We should never use the customers' money for anything except for the customers," he said.

Other comments focused on McNally's email correspondence with project volunteer Danielle Butzgy. Butzgy and others called the correspondence aggressive.

"I really think that the town needs to look at whether there was an ethics violation on the part of Councilor McNally," said Montville resident Keith Truex, who volunteers with Project Graduation, an organization that puts together an annual sober celebration for graduating seniors at Montville High School. He called the email chain "threatening."

In the emails, McNally tried to file a Freedom of Information request with Butzgy for the names of the alleged players on the WPCA team. Butzgy did not supply the names, stating that federal guidelines did not require her to do so, and McNally wrote that he was considering filing a complaint with the FOI Commission. Project Graduation is not a public agency and therefore not subject to state Freedom of Information law.

"I do not mean this as a threat, but I must get to the bottom of this and do what I was elected to do," McNally wrote in an email dated May 27, a printout of which was supplied to The Day by Butzgy.

May said after the meeting that the WPCA donation was to Project Graduation and not the tournament, and that there was no golf team funded with WPCA money. He said the donation followed the town charter, which allows town entities to make donations to nonprofits. Still, WPCA is following a temporary policy where it will publicly discuss any potential donations, he said.

During public comment, Butzgy said she questioned whether McNally was "the kind of person who should have the honor of being a town councilor."

Project Co-Chairman John Valliere requested during public comment that the councilors investigate McNally and suspend his status as councilor during the investigation. He suggested that McNally be ousted from his position for moral turpitude.

"His actions will quell future volunteers from getting involved and future donations from being given," he said.

Jaskiewicz responded that a formal complaint against McNally would be necessary for any investigation to occur. Valliere said after the meeting that he was not sure if he and Butzgy will file a complaint.

McNally declined to comment during the response period for councilors.

Mayor Ronald McDaniel said, "It's been an odd month as sometimes it is this time of year."

t.townsend@theday.com

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