Legal fee settlement concludes New Milford's first ethics case
three years ago ruled in favor of former finance board member
, who claimed he committed no ethics violations. This was the town's first-ever ethics complaint hearing.
The Town Council voted 6-2-1 for the legal settlement, which gives Spatola $90,000 for his legal fees. The town will pay $30,000 each of the next two years, and the town's insurance carrier will cover the other $30,000.
The town had filed a lawsuit against its insurance carrier for refusal to cover the claim..
Council members Robert Guendelsberger
On Tuesday, Spatola's attorney, William Wellman , declined comment on the council decision.
Civic activist John Kane filed an ethics complaint against Spatola, a builder, in 2003. Kane claimed Spatola violated the ethics code when he voted in June 2002 against using town money to purchase surplus land from United Water Co.
Kane claimed Spatola's vote cost the town an opportunity to acquire the property, which was later bought by Spatola's business associate Thomas Pilla.
Council member John Lillis was the only one who voiced support for the settlement. He said he never believed Spatola committed an ethics violation and found the settlement offer to be fair.
He noted that Spatola's total legal fees were about $175,000.
Lillis also noted that a Superior Court judge ruled the town had an obligation to defend Spatola, as it would any town official or employee for damages filed against them.
Council member Mary Jane Lundgren said she does not favor the settlement but agreed to accept it because to do otherwise would cost the town substantially more money.
Mayor Patricia Murphy said the town was told the legal bill if the case wasn't settled could be as much as $200,000.
"I don't want to support it, but I see no other alternative,'' said council member Roger Szendy.
Contact Nanci Hutson at email@example.com or
at (860) 354-2274.
Settlement Town Council voted Monday to settle lawsuit filed against town by John Spatola. The settlement agrees to give former Board of Finance member John Spatola $90,000 toward his legal fees; $60,000 to be paid by the town -- $30,000 each of the next two years -- and $30,000 by the town's insurance carrier. The settlement was approved in a vote of 6-2-1 -- council members Robert Guendelsberger and Ray O'Brien voted against; Joseph Failla recused himself as he presided in the ethics hearing. Spatola filed a lawsuit against the town for the cost of legal fees he felt the town owed him for his defense against an ethics complaint against him filed in 2003 by civic activist John Kane.