FOI Commission compels city of Middletown to release some records to mayor
MIDDLETOWN — The state Freedom of Information Commission ruled Sept. 11 that some records related to a 2018 independent investigation into the mayor and multiple city offices be released.
It ordered the city to release email correspondence involving attorney Margaret P. Mason of LeClairRyan and a three-member city panel comprised of Middletown Common Council Minority Leader Sebastian Giuliano, Council Majority Leader Mary Bartolotta and the late Councilman Thomas Serra.
Faith Jackson, director of the city’s Equal Opportunity & Diversity Management, also looked into the matter.
The FOI commission heard a short oral argument in Hartford Sept. 11 from the attorney hired on behalf of the council members.
As a private citizen, Mayor Dan Drew filed an appeal for public records Aug. 7, 2018. He said at the time the “false accusations” constituted “a witch hunt.”
As a result, the investigation committee was formed, with the Common Council originally authorizing spending $20,000 on the report last January. As it continued, the cost doubled to $40,000.
The probe was conducted by Mason and also involved the city’s general counsel’s office.
Last January, Giuliano described the proposed investigation as “a fact-finding mission.”
“This is not a witch hunt — it’s not supposed to be a witch hunt. Our job is not to punish or to censure anyone. Our job is to find out what happened and whether the systems work the way they are supposed to, and if not, what tweaks do we have to make to ensure the system does work,” he said.
“The FOIC found that violations of FOI had occurred and ordered production of public records requested by both me and Mayor Drew,” Common Councilman Gerry Daley, who was pleased by the ruling, said Friday.
The commission ruled the respondents provide Drew the records, with some names redacted immediately.
The council in January voted unanimously to engage an outside law firm to investigate a claim that Drew had intervened to block a raise for the Board of Education’s female human resource officer Michele DiMauro. The basis for her complaint was that three other male employees received raises.
When she did not receive what she felt was an adequate raise, she charged the mayor with gender discrimination.
Drew contended DiMauro was offered a one-step raise but demanded a two-step raise.
At the time, Drew said Mason asked his staff inappropriate questions as part of the probe, including queries into their personal lives.
Daley said he and Drew requested the individuals involved in the BOE complaint not be revealed.
“I think it’s important to note that the only reason why names are not being released is because both the mayor and I — in our separate cases — both of us agreed we didn’t want to see the name or identifying information of current city employees,” he said.
The FOIA panel ruled the names of any city officials or former workers must be revealed.
Daley’s request was solely for the invoices between the three-member panel and Mason, he said. The portion of his request for the emails was dismissed.
“I disagree, but I didn’t prevail. They’re saying I did not make my original request of the mayor, so that’s why all the emails weren’t released,” said Daley, who had originally asked for the records from Town Clerk Ashley Flynn and Director of Information Systems Bryan Skowera.
Next week, the commission will address a complaint filed by Daley alleging an illegal, secret meeting was held June 19, 2018, by the three-member panel concerning the investigation of the mayor and general counsel. Daley names Bartolotta and Giuliano in his appeal.
It will take place Friday at 11 a.m. at the Office of State Ethics, 18-20 Trinity St., first floor, hearing room A, in Hartford.
Reports by Jeff Mill contributed to this article.