Former Ethics Commission member resigns with criticism of city volunteer efforts

Norwich – Former Ethics Commission member Greg Schlough resigned Monday with a parting critique that urged people to “stay as far away from” seeking any volunteer position in Norwich, calling it “thankless and unrewarding.”

Schlough, who resigned citing advice from physicians regarding current serious medical issues, was singled out in March in a letter from Norwich Public Utilities General Manager John Bilda in his response to ethics complaints against him for his participation in controversial retreats hosted by the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative.

Bilda accused Schlough of not revealing that he is a vendor who has done business with NPU in the past and who has criticized the city utility for not giving him more business. Schlough disputed that claim Monday in a telephone interview and said he would answer to the accusations in the future.

Schlough said his brother owns the company in question, Baltic Roofing, and Schlough has worked for the firm.

“I will be eager to tell the entire truth and inform everyone of what I know,” Schlough wrote in his resignation letter received by the City Council Monday. “However, I do not want anything that could possibly, even remotely, cast a cloud over the good people of this Ethics Commission.”

Schlough said Monday it wasn't just the accusations that left “a bad taste in my mouth.” The Ethics Commission ruled in February that five city officials — Bilda, NPU division Manager Steve Sinko, Mayor Deberey Hinchey and utilities commission Chairwoman Dee Boisclair and Vice Chairman Robert Groner — violated the city ethics code by participating in an all-expense-paid trip to the Kentucky Derby last May, hosted by CMEEC.

But the utilities commission has since rebuffed the Ethics Commission's recommendation that the two board leaders not be reappointed to those posts. To date, only Hinchey has paid the Ethics Commission's recommended reimbursement, 25 percent of the estimated value of the trip. Since then, the City Council has voted that all five members should reimburse the city for the entire cost of their trips.

Schlough said the city should create a new charter revision commission “and give the Ethics Commission some teeth” to enforce its rulings.

“If recommendations aren't going to be followed, then why bother?” he said.

Schlough is chairman of the committee organizing the Connecticut State Firefighters Convention & Parade that will be hosted by the Taftville Volunteer Fire Department Sept. 15 to 17. The event is expected to draw hundreds of participants and spectators to the city.

Schlough said his physicians advised him to cut back on activities. He will continue the fire convention committee work, although he will delegate some of those duties, and will drop all other volunteer work in the city.

His letter cited more than health concerns, as he expressed strong bitterness and said he plans to move out of Norwich as soon as possible.

“I have seen the other side of this city/town that we call Norwich,” Schlough wrote, “and it has cast a bitter, unpleasant taste into my mouth. As long as I remain a homeowner and taxpayer in Norwich, I will never seek an appointed or elected position again.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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