Simmons calls on Stonington to release McKrell complaint

Stonington — Selectman Rob Simmons has called on First Selectman George Crouse to release a harassment complaint filed by Public Works Director Barbara McKrell to both he and Selectman Mike Spellman, who is among those named in the complaint.

After McKrell filed the complaint last month, the town’s Director of Administrative Services Vincent Pacileo alerted Spellman, Board of Education Chairman Frank Todisco, school board member Alisa Morrison and resident Cynthia DeCesare that they will need to be interviewed.

The four all said the town had refused to give them a copy of the complaint so they do not know if they are being accused of some type of wrongdoing or are witnesses. All four had raised questions or passed on complaints they have received from residents about the use of pesticides on the high school athletic fields.

Simmons said Crouse has not yet responded to his July 15 email request. Last week the town rejected the Day’s June 25 Freedom of Information request for the complaint.

“Be advised that the Town will neither confirm nor deny the identity of what Town employee has made any job related complaint at least not until a prompt, thorough investigation has been completed. Once the investigation of a Town employee’s complaint is complete, any documents that are able to legally be disclosed, redacted or in full, will occur at that time,” Pacileo wrote in his July 13 response to The Day.

Last year, the state Freedom of Information Commission ruled that the town had illegally withheld a harassment complaint filed by a former Human Services Department employee against former First Selectman Ed Haberek and ordered the town to release the complaint to The Day.

Crouse said Sunday that he has no control over the complaint, as he has passed it on to Pacileo to investigate because it concerns allegations made by an employee. The Day has filed an appeal with the state Freedom of Information Commission seeking release of the complaint.

Simmons, who is expected to seek the Republican nomination to run for first selectman this fall, said he would release the complaint if he were first selectman. Simmons said he expects the issue will be discussed at Wednesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

In his email to Crouse, Simmons said that while town labor attorney Michael Satti has said the complaint is confidential, McKrell discussed it with the Westerly Sun newspaper.

“I have not seen the complaint and it appears that Selectman Spellman and his attorney have not either. I find that this situation is a matter of concern to the board. It seems highly irregular and unfair to the objects of the complaint,” Simmons wrote.

In addition, Simmons has requested the town activate its Ethics Commission to deal with the complaint. While the town charter states that the town shall have an Ethics Commission, one has never been formed. Former First Selectman Ed Haberek had said for years that one could be appointed if the need arose.

j.wojtas@theday.com

Twitter: @joewojtas

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