By Dave Moran
As published in the Record Journal Saturday January 30, 2010
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WALLINGFORD — Organizers of a dinner to honor Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. say the event will be delayed at least a month, now that a complaint has been filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, “We’re giving the elections commission a chance to look at this,” said Craig Fishbein, a Republican town councilor who spoke Friday on behalf of the organizers of the event but is not involved in planning it.
“We don’t think we’re doing anything illegal. We’re giving (the commission) a chance to look at this,” Fishbein said.
Democratic Town Chairman Vincent Avallone filed the complaint Tuesday because he said the dinner violates a state law that bars testimonials for elected officials while in office.
The organizers of the event, a handful of local Republicans, have repeatedly stated that any profits from the dinner would be donated to a local charity, but the organizers’ first choice to receive the money, the Wallingford Center for the Arts, was not registered as a nonprofit charity, complicating the issue.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Dickinson said of the postponement. “I think it’s a wise course, rather than have something occur with some cloud hanging over it.”
When informed of the postponement Friday, Avallone offered little comment.
“I did what I had to do, so I really don’t have any reaction to what they’ve done,” Avallone said. “I’m sure they felt they did what they had to do.”
The $40-a-ticket dinner was originally scheduled for Feb. 6 at Villa Capri on North Colony Road, but has now been postponed to March 13.
Fishbein said the new date was chosen because it was the first date that Villa Capri had available, but the event could be postponed again or canceled if the elections commission has not ruled on the complaint.
“We don’t want to break the law, but we don’t think the event is illegal,” Fishbein said. “You allow the process to occur by law, but if they dismiss the complaint then we’re going to have a grand old time.”
Nancy Nicolescu, a spokeswoman for the elections commission, declined to discuss the complaint Friday. When asked if the dinner’s outright cancellation would negate it, she said, “I don’t know what the commission would do.”
The commission investigates more than 200 complaints a year, according to its Web site, and imposes sanctions in about two thirds of those cases.
The potential fine, according to Nicolescu, would be $2,000 per offense against any person the commission finds to be in violation, or twice the amount of any improper payment or political contribution, whichever is greater.