Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Insurer: Officials Aren’t Covered for Ethics Complaints

A frivolous Ethics Complaint was filed years ago against then Board of Finance Member John Spatola. After lengthy proceedings, Spatola prevailed and the Complaint was dismissed.

Spatola asked the Town to reimburse him for his legal fees as provided by State Statute but the Town and its insurer, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency (CIRMA), refused to do so. Spatola then sued the Town and CIRMA. CIRMA has its own attorneys and it retained Frederick M. O’Brien to represent the Town.

O’Brien made a motion to have the case against the Town thrown out. Judge Pickard denied the motion; his September 26, 2007, Memorandum of Decision is what I posted separately.

Now things get more complicated.

What O’Brien failed to do was make a claim against CIRMA to challenge its refusal to pay Spatola’s legal fees. That failure leaves the Town swinging in the wind.

Two weeks ago, O’Brien made a motion asking Judge Pickard to take another look at his decision. It’s called a Motion to Reconsider. The problem is that although these motions must be made within 20 days after the date of a Judge’s decision, O’Brien’s Motion was made about six months after Judge Pickard’s September 26 decision. According to Court records, Judge Pickard denied it even before he received papers opposing it.

It appears that the Council lost all confidence in O’Brien so it hired Dan Casagrande to try to fix the mess. After bringing himself up to speed, Casagrande's likely first step is to try to convince CIRMA to pay the legal fees the easy way. If that fails, he may join Spatola in a request to Judge Pickard for an order directing CIRMA to pay. It doesn’t take a lawyer to figure out from his decision that Judge Pickard appears to believe that CIRMA is on the hook.

For the moment, Town Officials who successfully defend Ethics Complaints shouldn’t expect to be reimbursed for their legal fees.

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