Moynihan: Ethics Board’s Decision Not To Dismiss Complaint Outright a ‘Perversion and Politicalization’

New Canaan’s highest-elected official last week voiced criticism of an appointed town body’s finding that further investigation is warranted into a complaint that he violated the Code of Ethics in the run-up to November’s municipal election. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan in a Jan. 5 email to the Board of Selectmen, Town Council, Board of Finance, Audit Committee and Board of Ed chair called the complaint lodged Nov. 1 by a town resident “spurious.” In it, the complainant, Micaela Porta, said that Moynihan “using his position as first selectman violated several sections of the town Ethics Code when he sent an undated letter to all residents of New Canaan prior to the town’s Nov. 2, 2021 municipal election,” according to a citation that the Ethics Board made at its Jan.

Ethics Board: Further Investigation Warranted in Complaint Against First Selectman

An appointed body voted unanimously Tuesday night to adopt a resolution saying that further investigation is warranted into a complaint that New Canaan’s highest elected official violated multiple provisions of the town’s Code of Ethics in the run-up to November’s municipal election. 

The Ethics Board has not yet made a determination regarding the complaint lodged Nov. 1 by Micaela Porta, a town resident identified by the appointed body’s chair, Tucker Clauss, as president of the New Canaan chapter of the League of Women Voters. [Note: Porta contacted NewCanaanite.com Wednesday morning to clarify that she filed the complaint personally and not on behalf of the League of Women Voters, as spelled out in the Ethics Board’s resolution, full text here.]

Porta as complainant asserts that Moynihan “using his position as first selectman violated several sections of the town Ethics Code when he sent an undated letter to all residents of New Canaan prior to the town’s Nov. 2, 2021 municipal election,” Clauss said during the meeting, held in the Town Hall Meeting Room. (The full text of Moynihan’s letter is printed at the end of this article.)

Specifically, Porta in the complaint “asserts that the letter mischaracterizes the voting rules at issue, that it was ‘misleading to voters seeking to understand how our municipal government works’ in general and in the then-pending election, and that the letter thereby granted preferential treatment to candidates preferred by the respondent,” Clauss said, citing the Ethics Board’s resolution.

‘Anonymous Complaints Can Be Vindictively Filed’: Town Officials Review Guiding Principles in Revising Ethics Code

The head of a newly formed town body that’s charged with fielding written complaints of ethics violations by local public officials, among other important tasks, said Wednesday night that he has a “confidentiality concern” with respect to the idea of those seeking to file a complaint sending communications to New Canaan’s town attorney. According to Ethics Board Chairman Tucker Clauss, a communication that goes from a complainant to the town attorney is not privileged, just as it’s not privileged if the town attorney then sends it along to someone else. “Because he’s the town attorney, not the Ethics Board attorney,” Clauss told members of the Town Council at their regular meeting, held in Town Hall. “And the Ethics Board does not retain any attorneys at that point. So under state law, confidentiality adheres when it comes into the Ethics Board and it stays confidential until there is a probable cause finding, and probable cause proceeds to a public hearing.”

He added: “Notwithstanding the concept of client-attorney privilege, it does not apply in this context.”

The comments came during an update on New Canaan’s Code of Ethics, which is undergoing revision.