New Milford councilman accused of conflict of interest
Published 2:31 pm, Wednesday, September 13, 2017
NEW MILFORD — A discussion about allegations that a town councilman used his position to solicit business for his employer was postponed Monday at the Town Council meeting.
Mayor David Gronbach wrote to Councilman Tom Esposito last week, saying Esposito created a conflict of interest by taking his boss at Green Star Energy Solutions to a meeting in July with the architect and a subcontractor working on the town library modernization project. The letter accuses Esposito of trying to get business for his company by proposing the library project consider using Green Star’s HVAC system.
“Any kind of request like that should have come to my office or, at the very least, the library modernization committee,” Gronbach said Friday.
The library has not yet selected an HVAC system.
Esposito could not be reached for comment.
Gronbach said Friday he learned of the meeting this summer, when a member of the library modernization committee called his office to ask for clarification of a change in plans for the library and to request an additional $2,500 to alter the design of the project.
“I was taken completely off guard,” the mayor said Friday.
When he began looking into the matter, Gronbach said, he obtained a copy of an email chain with comments from the subcontractor, an engineering firm, about the meeting with architect Jim Lothrop, Esposito and Joe Novella, the president of Green Star Energy Solutions.
Lothrop could not be reached for comment.
Gronbach’s letter lists several concerns, including that neither the Town Council nor the modernization committee had approved changes in plans for the HVAC work. If Esposito used his position as town councilman to set up the meeting and press for changes in the specifications, the mayor said, it would violate the town’s code of ethics.
“As a Councilman, you have voted on the appropriation of funds for this Library Project and you will be called upon to vote for funds going forward,” Gronbach wrote. “The fact that you are voting on this Project as a Councilman and now stand to receive a substantial amount of business for your company is, in my view, a violation of Ethics Code 6B-5.”
Gronbach said he asked Esposito before writing the letter whether Green Star would bid on the project, and that he didn’t get a “clear no” from the councilman. In the letter, he requested Esposito withdraw his company from consideration for the project.
Joyce Hermonat, co-chairwoman for the library modernization committee, said she did not know much about the meeting and had not heard that Esposito was involved. She said she learned after returning from vacation that the architect was doing due diligence in looking at a range of HVAC systems.
She said she was concerned at first because she thought the HVAC system had been finalized and worried that looking at other systems could cost more money. She said she was told architects are just gathering numbers and that it would not cost more for the current design and development phase to do so.
The library committee was expected to discuss the systems at its meeting Tuesday, Hermonat said.
If Esposito was involved, she said, he was probably doing his job as a councilman.
“I feel he’s probably doing his due diligence too,” she said.