Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
New ethics complaint filed against Vernon mayor

By Max Bakke
Journal Inquirer
Published: Saturday, December 5, 2009 1:14 AM EST

VERNON — Mayor Jason L. McCoy and newly hired Public Works Director Robert Kleinhans’ shared stake in a local commercial property is at the crux of a new ethics complaint filed Friday at Town Hall.

Timothy Morrissey, a local Democrat who filed the complaint against McCoy, says the mayor should never have interviewed Kleinhans, a former Republican councilman, since the two are listed as managers of 280 Talcottville Road LLC and share a financial stake in the company.

“McCoy should’ve stepped away for the whole process,” said Morrissey, a Democratic Town Committee member and former assistant fire chief, who also worked for Kleinhans in the 1990s.

Both McCoy and Kleinhans, along with Kleinhans’ wife, Eleanor, have maintained a shared partnership in 280 Talcottville Road LLC since 2001, according to town records and filings with the Secretary of the State’s Office obtained by the Journal Inquirer.

The building houses McCoy’s law practice and the Kleinhans’ real estate firm. The property is valued at $252,190, according to its most recent assessment in 2006.

The Kleinhans’ names appear on a mortgage deed for the property, along with McCoy, in 2006. All three are listed as managers of the company, according to documents filed with the deed.

The Kleinhans’ are not included on the company’s “articles of organization” on file at the Secretary of the State’s Office in Hartford, however, or the company’s latest available annual report in 2002. Kleinhans himself is listed as one of the company’s managers on a financing statement filed at Town Hall.

While the company is still listed as active, it has not filed any subsequent reports after 2002, according to the office.

Morrissey said that McCoy, who is bound by the town’s ethics codes, never made known his partnership with Kleinhans with town staff or the Town Council.

“I don’t think any of this was disclosed to anybody,” he added.

This has tainted the hiring process, according to Morrissey, who said the job should be re-posted.

McCoy, who did not return a call for comment, disputed the charge that he did not make known his stake in the company. His partnership in 280 Talcottville Road is widely known as well as the fact that his law firm leases space in the building, he said.

He did not directly respond to questions about the company, except to say that the “circumstance of the LLC has not changed.”

He said he had not seen Morrissey’s complaint, and declined to comment further.

Town Administrator John D. Ward, who served on the search committee for the job, said Kleinhans told staff and the Town Council of his involvement in the company this summer. Ward, who is tasked with Kleinhans’ annual review, said Kleinhans like all employees, will be expected to adhere to the town’s code of ethics.

Nevertheless, Kleinhans’ relationship to McCoy has been a sticking point among his critics, who accused the mayor of hiring a political ally to an essential town job this past November, over other potentially more-qualified candidates.

Kleinhans, a former councilman who twice ran for the state legislature and once ran for the mayor’s seat in 2005, actively campaigned for the mayor in 2007 when McCoy won his first term.

The McCoy campaign had also reimbursed Kleinhans $3,180 he made in in-kind contributions for the campaign, including fliers, Web site fees, and palm cards.

The council rejected Kleinhans’ appointment in July, nearly six months after former Public Works Director George Fetko left for a job in Ellington. The position had been filled by interim Director David Tomko until last month.

With two council members absent — Republican Dan Champagne and Democrat Pauline Schaefer — majority Republicans approved Kleinhans’ hire in November — the second time McCoy put him up for the job this year.

One Republican, Councilman Dan Anderson, joined Democrats Marie Herbst, Michael Winkler, and unaffiliated Councilman James Krupienski, to vote against the hire.

Democrats argued that Kleinhans, who has never worked for a municipal public works department or in the public sector, was not qualified for the job.

An attempt to reach David Herrmann, chairman of the town’s ethics commission, about the complaint was unsuccessful Friday.

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