When Wallingford resident Robert Gross made an ethics complaint against two Wallingford Town Council members, he was only after an advisory opinion, not a full scale ethics investigation, as the Record-Journal reported on Wednesday.
The issue of a retaining wall separating Holy Trinity School and a much-debated parking lot and whether it was originally constructed by the town or by Holy Trinity was the subject of debate at several town meetings.
Gross’s complaint said that because two Republicans councilors, John LeTourneau and Thomas Laffin, have connections to Holy Trinity, discussion of town responsibility for repairs to the retaining wall constituted an ethics violation. LeTourneau has grandchildren attending Holy Trinity and his daughter sits on the school board. Laffin attended Holy Trinity.
During the Tuesday night Board of Ethics meeting, Gross revoked his complaint and walked out of the room as the Rev. Dean Warburton, the ethics committee chairman, gave a response to Gross’s opening statements.
Gross gave the following statement to the Record-Journal:
“I never wanted to elevate my inquiry beyond seeking clarification. My sole objective, then and now...is (to ensure) that no conflict of interest existed, and that town councilors were following the rules articulated by the Town Charter…” Gross said.
In follow up calls to Gross, he said he would not be commenting on this particular issue.
“I think he was disappointed it was not a public hearing,” said John LeTourneau, one of the two councilors named in Gross’s complaint, “but that was an option for us (Laffin and LeTourneau).”
Both councilors chose the option of having a public meeting, rather than behind closed doors, to avoid raising undue suspicion, LeTourneau said.
“I was positive that there was no basis for the complaint,” he said.
According to LeTourneau, Rev. Warburton gave Gross the floor to discuss the charges. Gross read a multi-page document from a “self-proclaimed” ethics expert. Gross then went on to say what the ethics committee was doing wrong and how his complaint should have been handled.
LeTourneau said Gross stopped Rev. Warburton mid-sentence and stated that he withdrew his complaint and walked out of the meeting.
“So disrespectful,” LeTourneau said. “It’s only his opinion that counts and he has an opinion on everything.”