MERIDEN — Mayor Kevin Scarpati removed partisan censures from the City Council’s agenda Tuesday, calling both inappropriate.
A resolution from Democrats David Lowell, Larue Graham and Cathy Battista called for the censure of We the People Councilor Bob Williams, claiming he violated the city’s sexual harassment policy when he made a reference last month to department heads, saying “You gotta basically pat ‘em on the ass a little bit,” according to the council agenda. In a separate resolution, minority caucus members Dan Brunet, Joseph Carabetta III and Williams alleged Democratic Councilor Miguel Castro violated the city’s ethics code by pressuring the Council of Neighborhoods to remove a former political rival from the head of the Westsiders association, the agenda said.
Community members crowded into City Hall for the meeting, many voicing disgust at the Council for the censures during an extended public comment period.
Resident John Rush called the Democrat’s attempt to censure Williams “disgraceful,” claiming it was twisting a common idiom and demeaning to “actual” victims of sexual harassment and assault.
Later, Board of Ethics Chairman Joseph Galotti spoke against the minority caucus’ censure of Castro, calling it “disturbing” and outside the jurisdiction of the Council. Galotti said the censure was a violation of the city’s Code of Ethics and should be withdrawn without discussion.
Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn agreed with Galotti, advising the resolution be withdrawn.
Scarpati questioned why Quinn, who drafted the resolution at the request of Williams, allowed the item on the agenda if it violated the city ethics code. Quinn said he advised Williams it was an ethics board matter, but drafted the resolution as instructed.
Scarpati ruled the censure should be removed from the agenda without discussion.
“It’s unfortunate that I have to act on this or that any of us has to discuss this whether it is this item or the next,” Scarpati said. “The fact that we have stooped so low as a governing body to put forward resolutions like this is absolutely ridiculous.”
Council Majority Leader David Lowell then made a motion to adopt the resolution to censure Williams, saying he agreed “wholeheartedly” with the censure and adding that the matter was “deeply troublesome.”
Minority Leader Dan Brunet, a Republican, called for a point of order and Quinn advised Scarpati to allow the Council to continue with the resolution despite the issue being a “gray area.” While the city’s sexual harassment policy states complaints should be referred to the city’s Human Resources department, City Attorney Deborah Moore or the respective department head, Quinn said it is unclear if the policy applies to the council and added that it would be difficult to enforce because councilors are not city employees and many had never even signed an acknowledgement of the policies.
Despite Quinn’s recommendation, Scarpati ruled the item should be removed from the agenda, saying the ambiguity of the city’s policies made it inappropriate to continue with the resolution.