Stonington will release harassment complaint against Haberek

Stonington - Selectmen George Crouse and Glee McAnanly voted Tuesday to comply with a state Freedom of Information Commission order to release a harassment complaint filed against First Selectman Ed Haberek by former Human Services employee Alicia O'Neill in 2009.

Haberek, who made a statement about the complaint before Crouse and McAnanly made their decision, did not participate in the vote.

The town is expected to release the complaint today or Thursday as well as the "supervisory file" that former Administrative Services Director George Sylvestre compiled about the complaint.

The town refused to release the complaint when The Day requested it last summer. The Day appealed to the commission, and in July, the commission ordered the town to release the document.

The town then had the option of not releasing the complaint and appealing the order to Superior Court.

On Tuesday night, after hearing the case had already cost the town $8,100 in legal fees and could cost another $15,000 to $20,000 if it went to Superior Court, Crouse and McAnanly agreed to release the complaint.

"The question is, do we want to prove a point by appealing, or do we release it?" said Crouse, who was Haberek's running mate in the last election.

"It's unbelievable it got to this point. It's unbelievable it was never investigated. The thing is, we don't know if it's true or false," he added.

Director of Administrative Services Vincent Pacileo urged the selectmen to appeal to stop the erosion of employee privacy. He said the commission's decision limits the town's ability to provide a safe and confidential process for employees to bring forward their concerns.

He pointed out O'Neill's allegations were never investigated by the town, as she withdrew her complaint before that could take place. In addition, he said O'Neill wanted her complaint to remain confidential.

"She merely wanted the first selectman to know about his behavior," Pacileo said.

O'Neill testified under oath before a commission hearing officer that although she withdrew the complaint, the allegations she made against Haberek were true.

During the hearing before the commission, Town Attorney Thomas Londregan argued that releasing the complaint would stop other employees from filing confidential complaints about town officials because they could someday become public. The Day argued there was an overriding public interest in releasing the complaint.

In his comments, Haberek again criticized The Day for referring to the complaint as a sexual harassment complaint in an online headline in July, saying the commission found nothing of a sexual nature in the requested records.

He said the incident O'Neill referred to occurred in the presence of his wife and children and town employees. He said she later apologized and then applied again for her job after she resigned.

"The town attorney defended this issue not because of me but because the employee requested confidentiality," he said.

While the town has now resolved the issue of the harassment complaint, it still has not released any of the text messages and emails that Haberek sent from his town-issued BlackBerry in 2011 and 2012 that The Day filed a Freedom of Information request for in February. The town is now trying to arrange a meeting with an FOI official to discuss the request after saying that it would take one to two months to review and release the documents. Haberek has said he will not participate in the review, calling it "a fishing expedition."

j.wojtas@theday.com

Twitter: @joewojtas

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