Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon Republican chief defends McCoy

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Friday, June 24, 2011 12:00 PM EDT

VERNON — Republican Town Chairman Harold Cummings is defending Mayor Jason L. McCoy after he came under fire recently for hiring a law client as town economic development director, saying the attack is purely political.

“Jason has worked harder and done more for this town in the last three and a half years than any mayor that I know of in the last 40 years, Republican or Democrat,” Cummings said Thursday. “I see this as some desperation on the other side, and they really can’t attack Jason on his record, so now they’re going after him personally.”

At Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, McCoy for the first time publicly acknowledged that former Democratic Town Chairman Timothy Morrissey had filed a grievance against him in his professional capacity as a lawyer.

Cummings, who also serves as town attorney, said Morrissey’s complaint is a serious offense that’s the latest in a pattern of procedural abuses by Democrats, because “I thought the ground rules were you don’t go after the family, you don’t go after the job.”

Morrissey filed the grievance, which has been referred to the Tolland Judicial District Grievance Panel, after McCoy, who is a lawyer, hired South Windsor resident Shaun W. Gately as the town’s economic development coordinator.

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

“People don’t appreciate how serious and significant the grievance process is. It’s going after your heart and soul, it’s going after your ability to practice law,” Cummings said. “We have a thing called elections in November … and that’s where it should be solved, in the political arena.”

Morrissey’s complaint argues that McCoy and Gately’s financial relationship represents a conflict of interest, and says Gately is under-qualified for the position.

Gately worked as a correction officer from 1992-2004 before becoming a managing partner of the private equity investment firm CCSR Associates in East Hartford from 2004-09. He and his mother are co-owners of Mariner Realty in East Hartford, where he has been a salesman and managing partner since 2003. He also has worked as the operations and regional manager for three branches of Waltham Services, a pest control company in Waltham, Mass.

When asked about his economic development experience, Gately has said he has been involved in the sale of one commercial building in the last two years.

But Cummings pointed to a letter of recommendation from U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, as proof that Gately was not a political pick.

“I have known Shaun and his family for many years as he was practically a neighbor of mine in the town of East Hartford,” Larson wrote, also noting that Gately worked on his political campaigns.

“Gately is not a big buddy of the Republicans, he’s a Larson campaign guy,” Cummings said.

The other letter of recommendation provided in the council packet supporting Gately’s hire was from Pasquale “Bud” J. Salemi, program manager at Goodwin College and chairman of the East Hartford Democratic Town Committee.

Salemi wrote that with his professional experience, “it is relatively easy for me to recognize that Shaun possesses the skills needed to be successful” in the position.

When asked whether McCoy’s hiring choices have more to do with personal and business relationships than political affiliation, Cummings said it makes sense for McCoy to choose someone he knows well.

“You’re going to probably go with the person you know as opposed to the unknown quantity,” Cummings said.

Cummings called Morrissey a “despicable hypocrite,” and said his actions are motivated by personal vendettas against McCoy.

Morrissey acknowledged today that McCoy, “did do some representation for me about 10 years ago,” and that he applied for the town administrator’s job about four years ago, a position that went to another Democrat and lawyer, John D. Ward.

Morrissey said he anticipated personal attacks from Republicans and filed the grievance only after local lawyers approached him and suggested it.

But Cummings dismissed the idea that another lawyer would suggest filing a grievance against McCoy, and said Morrissey, “better go get legal advice. … He should seriously consider withdrawing it and issue an apology.”

This is not the first time McCoy has been grieved. He was required to take continuing education courses on legal ethics and time management under a September 2009 agreement with the Statewide Grievance Committee.

The disciplinary action came after a former client’s medical malpractice case was dismissed after lawyers in McCoy’s office missed a deadline.

Cummings, meanwhile, said the idea that this grievance is about McCoy’s conduct as a lawyer is ridiculous.

“I’m the lawyer and I’m telling you this, it has nothing to do with his practice of law. … It’s purely political,” Cummings said.

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