Montville Town Councilor drops ethics complaint, but could face investigation

Montville — Republican Town Councilor Thomas McNally has withdrawn his ethics complaint against four town officials, and John Valliere, co-chair of Project Graduation, has formally filed a request for the council to investigate McNally on allegations including threatening a volunteer.

McNally alleged in the complaint lodged last week that four town officials used town Water Pollution Control Authority funds to participate in a golf tournament benefiting Project Graduation, a nonprofit that raises money for a sober party for graduating Montville High School seniors. Three of the officials have stated that they did not play on a WPCA-funded team, including Democratic councilor and WPCA chairman Tim May, who said there was no such team.

McNally said Thursday that he dropped the complaint Sunday in an email exchange with Mayor Ronald McDaniel, which McNally forwarded to The Day.

No one at the council meeting Monday mentioned that McNally had dropped the complaint, even after Project Graduation volunteers blasted McNally during the public comment period.

McNally said he thought it was strange that no one mentioned he had dropped his complaint. He said he himself did not mention dropping it for two reasons: "Just didn't feel it was relevant at the time," and he was not sure until the very end of the meeting if the WPCA had met a contingency for his dropping the complaint.

McNally said that he agreed in an email exchange with the mayor to drop the complaint only if the WPCA implemented a policy whereby it would vote on requests for donations at its public meetings. McDaniel presented the interim policy to McNally in the email. McDaniel and May announced the interim policy at the end of the meeting Monday.

"Personally, I still don't think they should be donating any money, but this way here, at least it's public," McNally said Thursday about the interim policy for WPCA. The WPCA fired McNally from his assistant superintendent position in 2012. McNally alleged political motivations behind the firing and WPCA cited workplace accidents.

The town charter allows town entities, such as WPCA, to donate money to charities.

Before filing the complaint, McNally tried to file a Freedom of Information request with Project Graduation volunteer Danielle Butzgy for names of players on the alleged WPCA team. Project Graduation is not a public agency and therefore not subject to state Freedom of Information law. The emails spurred volunteers to complain to the council at the meeting Monday, where Valliere, Butzgy and others suggested McNally be suspended and even ousted from the council.

On Tuesday, Valliere filed a request that the council "investigate and take appropriate action" against McNally for inappropriate use of his council title, misrepresenting himself and threatening a volunteer.

Council Chairman Joe Jaskiewicz, a Democrat, said he passed the request along to town attorney Matthew Auger for advice. He said the request would have no impact on McNally's status as a councilor at this time.

Auger wrote in an email that he would review the request and report back to the council. He declined to comment further.

Along with the request, Valliere filed a printout of Butzgy's comments from Monday's meeting. The comments include excerpts from the email exchange between McNally and Butzgy.

In the email back and forth, McNally asks several times for names of players on the alleged WPCA team and Butzgy continually declines to share any information, stating that she feels uncomfortable and is not required to provide the information.

McNally's complaint is the third filed with the town within the past two months. Independence for Montville Chairman James Andriote Sr. filed an ethics complaint against four Democratic town councilors in April, and later filed a second complaint when the council appointed Auger to investigate the complaint. He claimed Auger's involvement would be a conflict of interest, and the complaint is now being investigated by an outside law firm.

Democratic councilors Billy Caron and May have responded to McNally's complaint, saying they did not attend the tournament and Jaskiewicz said he paid with his own money to play. WPCA administrator Brian Lynch has thus far declined to comment on the situation.

May said Monday that the WPCA had made a blanket donation to Project Graduation and did not fund a team at the tournament.

"It's sad on the ethics complaints," said Caron. "We do need an ethics board."

t.townsend@theday.com

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