Borough board adopts updated ethics code

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NAUGATUCK — The Board of Mayor and Burgesses on Tuesday approved a revised and expanded ethics code, which prohibits borough officials, employees and contractors from using their powers for personal gain.

The borough had been operating on a 5-page code of ethics, which had never been updated since 1986, the year it was written. The new code is four times as long and, unlike its predecessor, contains penalties for those who break the rules.

The new code contains two changes from the draft the Code of Ethics Commission proposed in April to the borough board. In accordance with the ethics code governing state officials, the commission had proposed raising the maximum value of a gift that can be accepted by borough employees, officials and their families from $50 to $100. After some residents and burgesses spoke against the proposed increase, the maximum value was dropped back to $50.

The previous code and the draft of the new code also contained a rule that no person could be appointed to more than one board or commission at a time. An exception was added for some commissions such as the Charter Revision Commission and the Cultural Council.

“We wouldn’t want somebody on the finance board and police commission, but there are a lot of ad hoc commissions that are important too,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said. “There are also some continuing commissions, some of which are open like the Cultural Council, that we wouldn’t want to prohibit people from doing.”

The ethics code is part of the borough’s code of ordinances. Officials and employees who violate the ethics code can now be publicly reprimanded, suspended, fired, fined or ordered to pay restitution. The Code of Ethics Commission is now allowed to subpoena witnesses and documents while investigating complaints.

Elected officials, some appointed members of commissions, certain employees and anyone who is paid at least $1,000 for doing business with the borough will be required to file financial disclosure statements every year. Employees and officials must list any businesses they or their families have financial interests in, all sources of business income without specifying the amounts, any known blind trusts, all real estate they own or benefit from within the borough and any leases or contracts they have with the borough.

New Haven-based attorney Steven Mednick drafted most of the code, Mezzo said. Mednick has worked on Waterbury’s ethics code and was chosen in part because he has no interests in the borough, Mezzo said.