Members of a municipal body that fields ethics complaints lodged against the town’s elected and appointed officials, volunteers and employees say they’re expecting a new one. Ethics Board member Robert Schott said during the appointed body’s regular meeting, held Oct. 10 in a first-floor conference room at Town Hall, that at around 5:20 p.m. the prior Thursday he received a text from an unknown number. “It is a question that has come to me regarding a member of the selectmen or Town Council, and it regards the possibility of a conflict of interest within the purchase of—some self-dealing now that that person’s on the Town Council,” he said. The complainant flagged an “issue of this individual recusing himself from the budgeting or payment process or competitive bidding process,” Schott said.
Contrary to what New Canaan’s highest elected official asserted in a public statement that also contains factual errors, the head of the appointed town body that took up an ethics complaint lodged against him led a fair and nonpartisan investigation, its members say. Tucker Clauss, while serving as chair of the Ethics Board, “made extreme efforts to go right down the middle” in following up on a complaint lodged last November against First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, according to Ethics Board member Robert Schott. “When we went to talk to the complainant, he [Clauss] took somebody from that side of the aisle with him,” Schott said during the Ethics Board’s regular meeting, held Tuesday night at Town Hall.
“When he went to talk to the recipient, he took somebody from that side of the aisle with him. And we gave equal time to both sides of the equation. … For the record, I think it was done fairly, openly and in a nonpartisan fashion.”
Schott cited a letter that Moynihan sent to NewCanaanite.com after the Ethics Board voted 4-1 in favor of a final “Report and Determination” at its May 12 special meeting, with Schott himself casting the dissenting vote (the 15-page document can be read in full here).
In that report, the Ethics Board detailed its monthlong process of discussing the complaint and gathering up information prior to concluding that further investigation was warranted, as well as the communications, additional documentation, public discussion and findings that followed.
In the end, the Board concluded that the letterhead Moynihan had used on a widely distributed endorsement letter backing Republican candidates for the Board of Education last fall appeared “more like the letterhead of an official document than a letterhead serving as a mere identifier and that an appearance of impropriety was caused by its use, particularly when the Letter was to be sent to new residents or new voters who would likely have had little experience with Town officials, Town politics or official town letterhead or correspondence.”
Yet the Code of Ethics, as written, lacks a “sufficiently clear standard” to cite Moynihan for a violation on that basis.
New Canaan’s highest elected official on Tuesday bemoaned an ethics complaint lodged against him last year, as well as personal legal fees he incurred in fighting against it and local news coverage of an appointed municipal body’s public meetings as it investigated the matter. The complaint lodged Nov. 1 with the Ethics Board—accusing First Selectman Kevin Moynihan of violating the town’s Code of Ethics by using the authority of an elected office to write a letter endorsing Republican candidates for the Board of Education in the run-up to the municipal election—“has not gotten a lot of press except by Mr. [Michael] Dinan who has managed to make several articles out of something that initially was confidential,” Moynihan said during a regular Board of Selectmen meeting. “But also, conveniently, Mike manages to attend meetings at night that he otherwise wouldn’t attend, so this has been a bit of a show. I think the whole thing has been rather disappointing and certainly a disservice to me.
Selectman Nick Williams on Tuesday signaled that, should an appointed town body find that New Canaan’s highest elected official committed ethics violations, he does not intend to take any action in the matter. Williams is the only member of the three-person Board of Selectmen who is not involved in any way in a complaint lodged Nov. 1 with the Ethics Board. In it, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan is accused of violating the town’s Code of Ethics by using the authority of an elected office to write a letter endorsing Republican candidates for the Board of Education in the run-up to the municipal election last year. Moynihan has denied the accusation.
The appointed body that is examining whether New Canaan’s highest elected official violated the town’s Code of Ethics in the run-up to last year’s municipal election is focusing its investigation on two areas. The Ethics Board is looking at whether First Selectman Kevin Moynihan used public resources in working on an endorsement letter that would be mailed out to residents prior to the Nov. 2 election, and whether the letterhead on the document itself constitutes a violation of the Code. During its March 8 meeting, Ethics Board members said they’ve concluded that some aspects of the complaint against Moynihan do not amount to violations (such as resources used for the letter’s distribution) or fall outside of the Code itself (such as the wording in the letter itself). Information gathered by the Ethics Board since receiving the Nov.