‘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.