Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
McCoy lashes out at Dems over law grievance

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 12:42 PM EDT

VERNON — Republican Mayor Jason L. McCoy threatened to take legal action against council members over what he described as “false statements” during a wide-ranging and often contentious Town Council meeting Tuesday.

“People in your party, and your former chairman, are going after my law license,” McCoy told Democratic council member Marie Herbst.

In response today, Herbst said she was surprised by the comment.

“To scream and yell, he was completely out of order last night. I got frightened for a minute. He got so beet red when he was yelling at me, and I said to him, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’” Herbst said. “He was obviously very upset.”

McCoy said the remark was in reference to a grievance filed recently by former Democratic Town Chairman Timothy Morrissey.

McCoy said Morrissey was attacking his livelihood and that was “a pretty nasty thing to do to someone.”

Still, Herbst said she doesn’t understand why she’s to blame.

“I said it’s nasty, going after my livelihood, that’s nasty, and you should point it out to Mr. Morrissey,” McCoy said, explaining why Herbst was the target. “He’s the former chairman of your party, you should point it out to him. That would be nice of you.”

Five of the council’s eight Republicans were absent from Tuesday’s meeting, so when Republican council member Daniel Anderson left in the middle of the dispute between McCoy and Herbst, he denied a quorum and effectively ended the discussion.

But McCoy continually returned to the subject of his personal reputation as a lawyer throughout the meeting before he left without explanation, interrupting town Finance Director James Luddecke to announce his departure.

Morrissey said he filed a grievance, which has been referred to the Tolland Judicial District Grievance Panel, after McCoy, who is a lawyer, hired Shaun W. Gately as the town’s economic development coordinator. Gately is a former prison guard and a client of McCoy’s.

Morrissey said that without significant economic development experience, Gately is under-qualified for the job.

McCoy is representing Gately in a lawsuit pending in New Haven Superior Court and jury selection is scheduled for December, according to court records.

At a previous council meeting, Herbst requested information about several items, including a development plan from Gately and payroll information for McCoy’s personal assistant Christopher D. Bandecchi.

At a pay rate of $26.78 an hour, many have questioned what Bandecchi does for the town other than public relations work for the mayor, but when Herbst asked again Tuesday, McCoy refused to answer and denied Bandecchi is an employee.

McCoy said he would get Herbst a definition of the word “intern,” but not a job description for Bandecchi.

In the council packet, McCoy included an undated letter he sent to Herbst after the council’s June 7 meeting, warning her about statements she’d made in regard to the town’s financing of janitorial equipment for the schools.

“I would appreciate that in the future you discontinue making unsubstantiated claims,” McCoy wrote in the brief letter.

Democratic council member Michael Winkler said the letter sounded like a precursor to discipline against an employee rather than correspondence between elected officials.

“Is the administration planning to take legal action concerning statements made during these meetings?” Winkler asked McCoy.

McCoy said, “Mrs. Herbst makes statements about people, I’m tired of it. If I get any more false claims that you guys make about me or anything else, I’ll take legal action, most certainly.”

Winkler said that since McCoy is a lawyer, “there’s a certain level of intimidation here.”

To which, McCoy said, “You mean compared to the false statements that you guys make about me? That Mrs. Herbst makes to the newspaper.”

When Herbst asked McCoy which statements he was referring to he said he has “a list like this Ms. Herbst. I’m not going to argue with you, just check your facts and stop making inaccurate statements.”

Morrissey said he was shocked to get a call after the council meeting informing him of McCoy’s comments because he’s tried to keep the grievance private until a decision had been reached.

“But now he took this out in the public domain, so now the questions are being asked,” he said.

Morrissey said he is not planning to run for public office and did not involve any other council members or residents in his complaint.

“I’m doing it because what he’s done to me is clearly a conflict of interest that affects me as a taxpayer because he’s spending my money to hire his client. That’s wrong,” Morrissey said.

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