Weston, Connecticut’s five-person Board of Ethics (BOE) has three vacancies following the resignation of member Judy Stripp.
Stripp sent an email to town clerk Donna Anastasia on May 12 announcing that she had been elected vice-chair of the Weston Republican Town Committee on May 9 and would be resigning, effective immediately. Weston’s town code prohibits BOE members from serving as officers in a political party.
Weston’s Board of Selectmen (BOS) held a special meeting on May 17 and entered an executive session to discuss the BOE. The executive session lasted roughly an hour.
On May 18, during a regularly scheduled BOS meeting, two of the town’s three selectmen voted to accept Stripp’s resignation, with selectwoman Amy Jenner abstaining from the vote.
Stripp is not the first person to resign from the BOE this year. During an April 19 meeting, the BOS voted to accept the resignation of chairman William Weiss from the BOE.
Weiss’ resignation was the result of a BOE finding against Jenner, which the BOS later rejected and voted to rescind. At issue was a letter to the editor Jenner wrote to Weston Today in which she accused Weston’s tax collector of “gross negligence and dereliction of duty.” The letter was scheduled to be discussed during a November 3, 2022 BOS meeting, but was tabled—a motion seconded by Jenner.
Mark Harper, president of the Weston Town Hall employee union, submitted an ethics complaint over Jenner’s participation in the vote, alleging it was unethical. The BOE agreed unanimously and issued a public statement.
However, the BOS never issued a public notice that they were meeting to discuss the matter and never officially met, leading to the BOS’ vote to reject and rescind the letter on December 1, 2022.
Nor did the matter end there. The BOS discussed town administrator Jonathan Luiz’s findings regarding the BOE’s handling of the complaint during a February 2, 2023 meeting. During the meeting, Luiz said he believed the BOE bore Jenner no ill intent, but that her rights were violated and the state Freedom of Information Act was violated. The BOS also announced its intention to set up a special meeting with the BOE to discuss the matter.
During an April 3, 2023, BOS special meeting, First Selectwoman Samantha Nestor and Selectman Martin Mohabeer discussed scheduling a public hearing for the purposes of potentially removing current BOE members. Jenner recused herself. Nestor and Mohabeer decided to discuss scheduling a public hearing during the next regular BOS meeting, which was held on April 5, but the item was tabled.
Weiss submitted his resignation to the BOS on April 6. “As a result of my 2 procedural errors regarding the Weston Code of Ethics and in noting the context of subsequent Selectmen meetings on this unfortunate matter, I anticipate I am likely not considered to be a trustworthy volunteer by the Selectmen.” Weiss wrote. The vote to accept Weiss’ resignation was unanimous.
On April 19, during the same meeting Weiss’ resignation was accepted, the BOS further discussed scheduling a public hearing to consider removing BOE members and unanimously voted to schedule one for May 18, 2023.
During a May 4, 2023 meeting the BOS again discussed the public hearing. Nestor, who opposed the public hearing, said they had received a request to delay the public hearing so the remaining three members could obtain council. She further said that the town’s attorney had recommended postponing the hearing and moved to postpone the hearing to a later date to be determined. Jenner recused herself from the vote. Mohabeer said that while he did not support the public hearing being on the agenda for that date, he did think irreparable damage had been done, and was in favor of continuing with the public hearing on the set date. After debate, Nestor and Mohabeer eventually agreed to move the public hearing date to June 1.
The board’s third vacancy is the result of BOE member Ruth Glazer’s term expiring on December 31, 2022. Glazer did not renew her appointment. During a January 19, 2023 meeting, the BOE was scheduled to interview a potential candidate to fill a BOE vacancy but ultimately declined to do so. Mohabeer noted that the BOE vacancy had not been advertised and that the board was forced to postpone hearing Luiz’s findings about the BOE’s letter in the Jenner complaint due to his illness. He added that interviewing someone was perhaps “premature” and that the BOS owed it to potential BOE members to clean up the outstanding issue. The decision was tabled.
The BOE has not met in 2023. Its last meeting was held on September 28, 2022.
Nestor did not respond to a request for comment about whether the BOS has a plan to fill the vacancies or whether, with only two remaining members, the BOE can meet.