Stonington issues warnings to two building officials

Stonington -- The town has issued warnings to its two building officials after police detective Greg Howard complained in March about the way they allegedly treated him in connection with work he had done on his Pawcatuck home without a permit.

First Selectman Rob Simmons ordered an investigation of Howard’s complaint by town labor attorney Meredith Diette.

The town released the disciplinary letters on Monday after The Day filed a state Freedom of Information request for them.

The letters show that on May 18, Simmons informed Building Official Lawrence Stannard that he would receive a written warning. That warning will remain in his personnel file as active discipline until May 18, 2019. 

Simmons also informed Assistant Building Official Robert Chevalier that he would receive a verbal warning that would remain as active discipline until May 29, 2019.

Simmons wrote the time limits were implemented because the two men had no previous disciplinary history with the town.

The town also released the investigative report of the actions of the two building officials in which the report’s conclusions were entirely redacted or blacked out. Simmons said Monday the redactions were done because the two men still have avenues to file a grievance through their union.

The investigation came after Howard complained to Simmons about “unprofessional conduct” and “bullying” by the two men. Chevalier first went to Howard's home to inspect work that he had done without first obtaining a permit. Howard said he applied for a permit when he learned he needed one. The town has since issued a permit after Howard met certain requirements.  

Howard said he was speaking out on behalf of a large group of homeowners, contractors and business owners who have told him they, too, have been subjected to the “rude, condescending and unprofessional treatment” by the two men.

Howard also has charged they are misinterpreting building codes and exceeding their authority by requiring work that is not legally required.

About 20 contractors and property owners accompanied Howard to a Board of Selectmen’s meeting in which he spoke. Other contractors and business owners who have spoken with The Day complained about the actions of the building officials but said they did not want to speak publicly because they have ongoing projects that require permits and fear retaliation.

Simmons has previously said he has spoken to the two building officials on a number of occasions about how to properly interact with the public and even sent Chevalier for training on the topic.

Diette’s report says that after he took office in 2015, Simmons told the two men he wanted more strict enforcement of building codes than in the past in part to ensure the town could regain its flood insurance discount. The report states the two men have done this.

“This change in practice, procedure and policy has not been well received by all of those who must interact with the building officials,” wrote Diette in her report.

She also wrote that information from individuals and contractors other than Howard showed evidence of both positive and negative experiences with the two building officials.  

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