Conflict of interest discussed at New Milford Town Council
NEW MILFORD — Two town councilmen who have been accused of conflicts of interest or possible conflicts of interest exchanged words at Monday’s council meeting over the town’s ethics code.
Councilman Frank Wargo was criticized earlier this month for bidding on a town-owned building that he approved selling as a town councilman. His bid of $50,000 to revitalize 25 Church St. has since been rejected, and he submitted a letter to the Ethics Commission, requesting an advisory opinion.
Councilman Tom Esposito was accused last month of a potential conflict of interest for meeting with the architect and subcontractor about making the library modernization project energy efficient, something the company he works for does. He said his company is not able to bid on public projects and had never intended to bid on the library project.
Esposito requested a discussion about Wargo’s actions be added to the agenda last week because he viewed the lack of it as hypocrisy. He added it was nothing personal against Wargo and the two discussed it on the phone this weekend before the meeting.
“If hypothetical scenarios warrant an open discussion, then an actual conflict of interest does too,” he said Monday.
Esposito’s actions were included on both agendas in September, even though Esposito said he was away for his wedding and could not be reached for two weeks. At a previous Town Council meeting, Esposito said he told Mayor David Gronbach that before the agenda was sent out and it should not have been included in the first place.
He said the issue should have been handled by the Ethics Commission and not at a Town Council meeting.
Wargo said he didn’t see his actions as a conflict of interest because it was the second round of a public request for bids and he didn’t have an advantage over other members of the public.
”I don’t know where the ethical conflict is,” Wargo said Monday.
Wargo sits on the subcommittee that examines and suggests town-owned properties that can be sold. He voted with the committee to recommend the town sell 25 Church St., then voted with council to sell the building.
None of the proposals in the first round of bids for the property were accepted because they included demolishing the building or using the space for parking lots. Wargo was the only bidder in the second round. He said he wanted to fix up the storefront and upstairs apartments so it could return to the tax rolls.
The town bought the building in 2001 for $255,000, and it was appraised at $373,600 in 2015, according to town records.
Earlier in Monday’s meeting, Carl Dill, a resident who redevelops properties, asked that the town list the property with a broker. He said he’s interested in buying and renovating the building so it can return to the tax rolls and already has an interested tenant for the first floor.