NAUGATUCK — The borough’s human resources department will open an investigation into emergency management director Walter “Fran” Dambowsky, in light of information connecting him to a federal campaign finance probe, Mayor Robert Mezzo said Wednesday.
Finance reports released earlier this month revealed political action committees run by Republicans in the state House of Representatives returned $3,000 in donations made by Dambowsky, of 35 Moonlight Circle in Naugatuck.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr. (R-142) said last month the PACs were returning money that could have come from federal agents working to uncover an alleged plot to conceal the source of tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions.
“What’s been printed raises serious concerns, which we would further investigate through HR,” Mezzo said.
By standard practice, the investigation will include an attempt to question Dambowsky, Mezzo said.
Dambowsky is one of several public employees in greater Waterbury with ties to the scandal. In all cases, superiors have taken notice, in a couple, they’ve taken action.
For the past eight years, Dambowsky has earned $5,000 a year as the borough’s emergency management director, a position required under state law to coordinate local disaster response. The same statutes allow the chief executive of any municipality to remove its emergency management director “for cause.”
Dambowsky makes more than $51,000 a year as an investigator for the Division of Public Defenders Services in Bantam Superior Court. Human Resources Director Nancy Roberts confirmed he is still employed with the state public defender’s office but would not say whether he is being investigated or placed on leave. He has not been charged in connection with the federal investigation.
Dambowsky’s wife Janice makes $32,000 as secretary to Mezzo, a Democrat. She has not been linked to the donations returned to her husband.
Another Naugatuck resident, Harry “Ray” Soucy, a longtime union leader and former prison guard manager with the state Department of Correction, has been identified by sources as the middleman who helped organize a scheme in which fake donors were used as conduits for tens of thousands of dollars in donations from tobacco interests to the congressional campaign of House Speaker Christopher Donovan.
Donovan’s campaign finance director, Robert Braddock Jr., was arrested on May 30. Federal authorities announced the arrest May 31. The following day, Soucy began stepping down from his union leadership positions.
On June 5, the Department of Correction placed Soucy on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation. Soucy has since retired, and is seeking a disability pension. He declined comment Wednesday.
Department spokesman Brian Garnet said Soucy may be retired, but the department may still investigate.
“Because of what happened relatively recently we have still not determined whether we will proceed with our investigation or not,” Garnett said.
To what end?
“To determine what conduct took place and whether it affected the agency,” Garnet said.
Garnett was unaware of what consequences might be applied to an employee who is retired. He referred that question to the state Comptroller’s Office, which has oversight over state pensions.
Nobody apart from Braddock has been named by federal authorities. Soucy has not been charged.
The Donovan campaign has handed over 11 suspicious checks to the federal government, all from Waterbury-area residents. Several are employed by the city.
These include: Wilby High School Athletic Director Steven Baldwin, elementary teacher Katie Pino and East Mountain Golf Course seasonal employee Steven Kerrek.
These alleged “straw” donors and others have ties to AAC Smokehouse, a company with two shops in Waterbury under the name Smoke House Tobacco. According to state documents, the company is owned by Allison Chance, a state probation officer, and city teacher Alison Tirado. Their husbands are East Mountain Golf Course Manager Richard Chance and city police officer George Tirado.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary said he’s well aware of the connections that have been drawn in news outlets, but noted none of these employees has been named by federal investigators, much less charged. It’s something city officials are watching closely, he said.
“We are waiting to see what federal agents are going to do in regards to those individuals before we decide what, if any, action we’d deem appropriate,” said O’Leary, specifically referring to employees who wrote the suspect checks.