Candidates feud over 1991 reprimand

NAUGATUCK — Mayoral candidate N. Warren ‘Pete’ Hess was reprimanded for violating the rules of professional conduct as an attorney in 1991.

Hess, a 66-year-old Democrat who has had a private law practice in Naugatuck for 42 years, was cited over a real estate transaction he was involved with in 1987 with a Naugatuck woman named Grace Israel.

Israel, then a real estate agent, approached Hess to be a financial partner in a deal to subdivide and sell residential property on Holly Street. After the property was sold, Israel was upset because she said she did not receive the amount of money she anticipated. Hess testified in 1991 he advanced her more than $21,000 and that he had not been advanced any portion of the profits.

The grievance committee wrote in its ruling that Hess “maintained that he fully disclosed the terms of the partnership” to Israel but said he never advised her to obtain independent counsel to advise her on the terms of the agreement. For that, he was reprimanded.

Hess’ political opponent, Republican Tamath Rossi, said Hess was cited twice, once here and once in California, where he said he never practiced but has a law license. Hess said he was cited only once and that because of reciprocity among states, California reviewed the case and gave a private reproval to not do it again.

The exact ruling from California could not be verified Tuesday.

Rossi said this “raises serious concerns about his ability to work within the rules.”

“The rest of us don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing when where and how we follow the rules. Apparently Mr. Hess thinks he can,” she said. “If there is anything I’ve learned in the last 12 years of public services it’s that honesty, transparency and fairness go a long way in building trust with the community you serve and without trust you can’t govern. So this simply comes down to whether Mr. Hess can follow the rules not just the ones the thinks are important.”

In response, Hess said: “Mrs. Rossi is once again continuing her pattern of attempting to distract voters from the real issues of the campaign. I have been a lawyer for 42 years and am proud of the fact that I’ve had only one grievance in my entire career, which occurred more than 25 years ago. The two matters Mrs. Rossi refers to are one in the same. What I am learning in this campaign is that my opponent is upset because my 42 years of fighting for my clients and helping others is garnering me more support than her 12 years of tireless self-promotion.”

Hess also defended himself Tuesday from remarks Rossi made about an elections enforcement complaint filed by the state GOP on Monday. The complaint stated he violated election laws by using his business for gifts for voters at the senior center and a table at a Chamber of Commerce debate. He said that also has no merit.

“Her complaint is based on the erroneous assumption that my law business is a corporation or a limited liability company — it is not,” he said. “My law business is me and my participation at the senior center was appropriate. Her filming of me calling bingo for one-and-a-half hours was bizarre at best and raises serious questions as to her judgment and temperament.

“Anyone who wants to verify my integrity or temperament need only speak with any of my many friends or clients. I stand by my record.”