Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some doubt legality but fete for mayor is still on schedule

By Dave Moran
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday January 27, 2010

Follow all the news directly on the Record Journal Website for the most up to date information.

Write a letter to the editor

WALLINGFORD — De­spite being advised that the celebration could violate a state law, organizers of a dinner in honor of Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s 26 years of serv­ice say the event will go on as planned. A retired lawyer for the State Elections Enforce­ment Commission says the le­gality of the event should be in­vestigated.

A handful of supporters of Dickinson, a Republican first elected in 1983, have organized a dinner in his honor to be held Feb. 6 at Villa Capri on North Colony Road. Tickets cost $40 and include a buffet dinner, music from the Johnny Bass Band, speeches and danc­ing. The organizers, all Repub­licans, have said that any prof­its would be donated to the Wallingford Center for the Arts.

Upon learning of the dinner, however, Vincent Avallone, the Democratic town chairman, sent a letter last week to Robert Prentice, the Republican town chairman, advising him that the event appeared to violate a state law that prohibits testi­monials for elected officials while they hold office.

On Tuesday, Prentice said that after consulting several lawyers about the issue, the dinner would go on as planned and he was confident that it would not violate any laws.

“We’ve done some research and there’s no issue here,” he said. “Even though we don’t have it in writing from people on the state level, I’m 99 per­cent sure that we’ve done everything that we’re supposed to do. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve heard and I’m pretty confident that even if there is a complaint against us it’s not go­ing to go anywhere.”

But Ronald Gregory, a Wallingford resident who was a lawyer for the SEEC for more than 20 years, said he was trou­bled about the dinner after reading a news story about it. He said it raises a number of potentially troubling questions. “I just think somebody’s go­ing to have to file a complaint, because it deserves it. I think there’s too much confusion when there shouldn’t be,” he said. “The whole situation de­serves some scrutiny ... when it gets so muddy, I think it’s best that somebody official look into it.”

Gregory said that he called the attorney general’s office af­ter reading about the event, only to be told that the Walling­ford Center for the Arts is not registered as a charity .

An organization “duly or­ganized for charitable purpos­es” is exempt from the law and can hold testimonials for elect­ed officials to raise money, but Gregory said that he doesn’t in­tend to file a complaint with the SEEC because of his past asso­ciation with the agency.

“I’m not going to file a com­plaint,” he said. “I’d feel awk­ward because it would be be­fore my own commission.”

Mary Ellen Kingsland-Eckels, director of the Wallingford Cen­ter for the Arts, said Tuesday that organizers of the event had contacted the organization about receiving profits from the dinner, but that the organ­ization is still in the process of obtaining nonprofit status and would not be eligible to re­ceive the funds. Nancy Nicolescu, a spokes­woman for the SEEC, said Tues­day that no complaint had been filed regarding the dinner.

If a complaint were to be filed, the potential fine would be $2,000 per offense for any person found to be in violation, or twice the amount of any im­proper payment or political contribution, whichever is greater.

The law being cited is Sec­tion 9-609(b) of the Connecti­cut General Statutes.

Dickinson, a lawyer, said Tuesday he still plans to attend the event and that he believes the organizers are trying to find a charitable organization to sponsor it.

“I appreciate that people would like to do something of recognition for my time in of­fice,” he said. “But I’m not real anxious of being the center of attention.”

No comments:

Post a Comment