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NEWS > 13 December 2006

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 Article sourced from

Weston Forum - Georgetown,CT,U
13 December 2006
This article appeared in the above title/site.
To view it in its entirity click this link.


Police Commission: Crosswalk r

A request to install a raised crosswalk in front of the Cobbs Mill Inn restaurant has placed members of the police commission in an ethical quandary.

At the commission’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5, Weston Police Chief Anthony Land started to discuss the creation of a “safe crossing zone” in front of Cobbs Mill Inn restaurant, when he was quickly stopped.

“I’m uncomfortable discussing this issue,” Rick Phillips, chairman of the commission, said.

Mr. Phillips said the commission may have an ethical issue with Chief Land presenting the request because the chief is represented by George Guidera, a local attorney, who also happens to be one of the owners of the Cobbs Mill Inn.

“We have to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” Commissioner Wally Marcus said.

Uncertain on how to proceed, the commission decided to table the crosswalk discussion until January, and has sent a letter to the town’s Board of Ethics for an opinion.

The original request called for the installation of a raised crosswalk leading from the restaurant, across Old Mill Road, to the parking lot on the other side of the road. It is the role of the police commission, as the traffic authority, to approve or disapprove such requests, Mr. Phillips said.


The right thing

After the meeting, Mr. Phillips said he is trying to do the right thing by asking for an ethics opinion before proceeding further on the matter.

He said the issue was further complicated by the content of two letters, dated Dec. 4, written by Mr. Guidera and sent to First Selectman Woody Bliss and Finance Director Rick Darling.

One of the letters states, “Our office represents Anthony Land, the Chief of the Weston Police Department, with regard to salary issues with the town.” Mr. Phillips said the attorney-client relationship between the chief and Mr. Guidera was unexpected news and caught him off guard.

However, it wasn’t just that relationship that concerned Mr. Phillips. The letters asked why Chief Land had not received a pay raise or cost of living increase in July, and pointed an accusatory finger at the Police Commission.

“The allegation has been made that the withholding of the chief’s pay raise is nothing more than an attempt to pressure him into signing an employment contract with the town. Such allegation seems quite plausible in light of the facts,” Mr. Guidera wrote.

Last year, the commission tried to negotiate a deal with Chief Land to accept a contract, but the chief declined.

Because of this complicated history with the chief, Mr. Phillips decided to ask the board of ethics for help in the crosswalk matter. A few months earlier, members from the Board of Ethics spoke to the Police Commision about ethical conduct and encouraged the commission to ask for help if it ever needed it. “We need it,” Mr. Phillips said.

In a letter to the Board of Ethics dated Dec. 6, Mr. Phillips wrote, “The commission is uncomfortable acting on this proposal since it is our feeling that a conflict of interest exists on both sides and potential ethical questions might arise if we take action at this time. In no way am I making accusations of impropriety. However, here is the potential issue I see: Should the commission approve the walkway, which Chief Land has recommended to the commission, his attorney will be a direct beneficiary. On the other hand, if we do not approve the plan, the action can be viewed as retaliation against Attorney Guidera for the accusations in his letter and against Chief Land for hiring Attorney Guidera to question the actions of the commission. Neither outcome is favorable in my view.”


Defense

In defending his actions, Chief Land said the only reason he made the Cobbs Mill presentation was because Special Officer Terry Mooney was unable to attend the meeting. Mr. Mooney had conducted a traffic study on Old Mill Road and was supposed to present his findings to the commission.

Even so, Mr. Phillips still has other concerns. “I recall that Chief Land was never in favor of things like speed bumps, which is what a raised crosswalk is,” Mr. Phillips said. “Several years ago, the chief was opposed to putting one on School Road across from Kinderland. I’m not saying there is any kind of impropriety, it’s just that I have questions,” Mr. Phillips said.

Despite Mr. Phillips’ assertions, Mr. Guidera believes there is no conflict of interest, and the commission’s ethical concerns are unfounded and “nonsense.”

Speaking as the owner of Cobbs Mill Inn, Mr. Guidera said, “Cobbs Mill is not asking for anything that any other citizen could not ask for. The road has high pedestrian and vehicular traffic and there is no protection for people crossing the street. Who is the crosswalk for, me or people crossing the road? I’m trying to save lives.”

Mr. Guidera said he originally made the request for the raised crosswalk in June, directly to Chief Land, although it is the commission and not the chief that decides on these issues. “It was my understanding I could make the request to the chief,” Mr. Guidera said.

He then compared the Police Commission to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the chief to the zoning enforcement officer. “I talk all the time to the zoning officer so why not talk to the chief?” he said.

Speaking as Chief Land’s attorney, Mr. Guidera said the commission is using the ethics issue to disparage the chief. “They’ve been spending a great deal of time trying to get Tony to resign,” he said.

Mr. Guidera said the chief was supposed to get a cost of living salary adjustment in July, but it never happened. “It is well known in Weston the commission wants him to quit, but that is not a reason to hold up a man’s pay raise,” Mr. Guidera said.

Mr. Guidera, a former Weston first selectman, said he believes it is the first selectman or the Board of Selectmen, and not the Police Commission, who have the authority to make wage adjustments.

In the meantime, while waiting for the Board of Ethics decision, Mr. Guidera said he hopes someone is not injured crossing the street at Cobbs Mill Inn. “It’s a dangerous situation,” Mr. Guidera said.
 

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