New Milford councilman’s bid didn’t violate ethics code, panel says
NEW MILFORD — The Ethics Commission has agreed Town Councilman Frank Wargo did not violate the town ethics code when he submitted a bid to buy town-owned property.
But commission members said in bidding to buy the property at 25 Church St., after sitting on a subcommittee arranging for the sale, Wargo had acted unwisely.
“It looks wrong,” said commission member Theresa Volinski. “I wouldn’t suggest he try it again.”
Wargo had asked the commission to issue an advisory opinion on the matter after it was detailed on a community Facebook page. A draft of the opinion will be written by commission member Ari Rosenberg using points raised during the discussion at the recent special commission meeting.
The commission will vote whether to approve the draft at its regular meeting in December.
The handling of an advisory opinion differs from an ethics complaint, which remains confidential unless the commission determines it to have merit.
Wargo sits on a subcomittee that encouraged the town to sell the property, which once housed Gallery 25, and he later voted to sell the property as a member of Town Council. The town rejected all bids submitted in the first round, and Wargo submitted his bid in the second round. His bid was rejected.
During discussion on the issue, Rosenberg said the open nature of the bidding process meant Wargo’s participation was above-board.
“If it is a public auction, I do not think it’s a violation of the code of ethics, no matter what the appearance may be,” Rosenberg said.
He said Wargo didn’t use any confidential information to bid, that bidding in a public auction can’t retroactively invalidate his vote as a councilman, and Wargo didn’t have an advantage as a councilman over anyone else interested in the property.
Wargo, who last week lost his bid for re-election, has said he bid on the property with plans to renovate it and return the building to the tax rolls, and that he did nothing wrong because he didn’t get an advantage over others.