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Old Saybrook harbor commissioner's vote questioned on ethics

Old Saybrook - In a Harbor Management Commission meeting in April, commission member Peter Fredrickson voted to override the deputy harbor master's requirement that he, as a boat owner, upgrade the mooring anchor on his vessel.

Fellow commission member Richard Goduti saw a conflict of interest in Fredrickson's voting on a matter that affected him personally. At the May 10 meeting, Goduti made a motion to forward the issue to the Ethics Commission for review, but that motion resulted in a tie, according to minutes from that meeting.

So Goduti brought the issue to the Democratic Town Committee's Issues Committee, town committee Chairman Ed Wilhelms said. The town committee earlier this month filed a formal complaint with the Ethics Commission, which meets Tuesday.

"It's unfortunate, because all these folks are volunteers, they don't get paid," Wilhelms said. "But it clearly was not correct."

The Harbor Management Commission should have tabled the vote at the April 12 meeting and asked First Selectman Michael Pace, an ex-officio member of every town board and commission, to make the tie-breaking vote, Wilhelms said.

"We're elected officials, and we have our job, (which) is to represent Democrats," Wilhelms said. "And Dick Goduti is a Democrat. ... So we had an obligation to him to bring it forward and to investigate it."

Fredrickson, a Republican, said the complaint was politically driven. He saw no conflict in what he said was a vote to support Deputy Harbor Master Jim Mitchell's revised opinion at the April 12 meeting that Fredrickson keep his old anchor but replace the chain.

"They talked the harbormaster into agreeing that that mooring was OK," Fredrickson said. "Finally, he said it was a question of the chain. So I feel that I didn't violate any ethics in that vote. ... It's not a question of pertaining to my vote, it's a question of a matter pertaining to the harbor master's decision."

The Ethics Commission is having a busy month. In addition to accepting the complaint on Fredrickson at Tuesday's meeting, the commission will review two other existing questions of conflicts of interest.

The first, raised recently by Selectwoman Carol Manning, pertains to First Selectman Michael Pace's dual role as Old Saybrook's top elected official and as chairman of the trash authority Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA), which has a contract with the town.

The second is about whether Board of Finance member Barry O'Nell should be allowed to do business with the town as owner of the business Saybrook Lawn and Power Equipment.

The commission will review a legal opinion on its earlier decision that O'Nell's business dealings with the town did not conflict with his duties on the finance board.


WHO: Ethics Commission

What: Special meeting

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Acton Public Library conference room


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