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Middletown Mayor Rips 'Boondoggle' Investigation As Report Looms Monday

Middletown Mayor Rips 'Boondoggle' Investigation As Report Looms Monday
Mayor Daniel Drew accused the Middletown common council of conducting an unfair investigation into an employee complaint filed last year. The council is expecting a report from an investigator Monday night. (Christian Eigner)

Mayor Daniel Drew in a letter to the common council Thursday blasted an investigation into his administration and accused council members of illegal meetings, unfair behavior and hiding information.

The council approved an investigation in January after an employee and her union accused the mayor and legal office of gender discrimination and interfering with job description reviews.

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“This investigation was launched and conducted this way because I won’t engage in the patronage that some people have come to expect as their birthright. This abuse of power is symptomatic of the approach to government that has existed in Middletown for too many years and it is one that I’ve pushed back on multiple times in the years I’ve held this office,” Drew wrote.

The council has scheduled a special meeting Monday night to receive a report from Attorney Margaret Mason. The meeting will be held immediately following the 7 p.m. regular monthly council meeting.

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Drew wrote that he and his staff in the legal office and HR office were asked about their marriages, divorces, custody agreements and political donations.

“This is vastly beyond the scope of the council’s authority as defined in the Charter to investigate offices of the city. Nowhere does the Charter empower you with intruding into our personal lives, our political activities, or what we do on our own time and with our own money,” he wrote.

Mason’s investigation has not been made public, and it is unclear what findings will be included in her report.

Council members have said they need to know from the investigation whether any city policies or ordinances were violated, and if so, whether there is anything the council can do to prevent it from happening again in the future.

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School district Human Resources Manager Michele DiMauro, the original complaintant, has accused Drew of improperly influencing the job review process in order to prevent her from getting a raise.

Council Democratic Deputy Majority Leader Mary Bartolotta, one of the three chosen by the council to serve on a subcommittee managing the search for an investigator and to oversee the process, said the subcommittee acted professionally at all times.

The committee of three has not seen any part of the attorney’s report, she said.

“I find it highly disconcerting that the mayor has spoken to things that not even the council subcommittee to the investigation is aware of, and he has possibly shared confidential information with the public,” Bartolotta said. “I can only hope the allegations or statements the mayor has made have not intimidated any individual who has come forward in this investigation.”

The investigation began with a $20,000 appropriation, and the council approved an additional $20,000 in April. Drew shared copies of invoices for the investigation in his email and on Facebook, and said the investigation will cost more than $40,000.

“The Common Council owes an apology to staff ... and to the people of Middletown for how they were abused — yes, abused — in this $40,000 boondoggle,” he wrote.

He questioned redacted invoices and bills that show the committee met with the attorney, and said the council had no authority to expend the $40,000 in funding

“Why did the mayor wait eight months to raise these questions, other than that the report is coming out [Monday]?” Bartolotta said. “We have asked every question we could have reasonably known to ask, including consulting with the Freedom of Information Commission and a parliamentarian to make sure we were following the rules we needed to be following.”

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“Ultimately, we put the investigation in the hands of a highly regarded and experienced attorney who will present her report on Monday,” she said.

Other council members said they shared some of Drew’s concerns, but said they had no idea what was actually asked during interviews other than what Drew reported in his letter Thursday.

“I do have concerns that the scope of the investigation has been expanded beyond the scope that was authorized in the original resolution,” said Councilman Gerald Daley. “I have no problem with the original resolution, but to the extent the subcommittee went beyond what it was originally asked to do, that’s where I have a problem.”

Deputy Mayor Robert Santangelo said there was no communication between the committee and the council as a whole, so members have little information to go on beyond the mayor’s accusations.

“The mayor has raised several good points,” Santangelo said. “I really want to know the questions that were asked and what does it have to do with the charge. My question is going to be what was the methodology here.”

Republican Minority Leader Sebastian Giuliano, another member of the investigation subcommittee, said it’s “pointless” to argue over the contents of a report nobody has seen.

“I don’t know who asked those questions or why, but he’s attacking a report that hasn’t even come out yet,” Giuliano said. “If [Drew] knows what it says, he knows more than I do.”

He said all bills were paid according to city rules, and that it’s common practice for names to be redacted from legal invoices to protect confidentiality.

“The finance office wouldn’t have paid it if they weren’t satisfied,” Giuliano said.

He said Drew’s letter Thursday was clearly intended to cast doubt on the investigation.

“He’s trying to damage it’s credibility before it even happens,” Giuliano said.

Drew said the timing of his letter wasn’t about trying to undermine the investigation or its findings, but to point out that he believes taxpayer money was used inappropriately.

“Seb should be more concerned about the fact that taxpayer money has been used to dig into our personal lives,” Drew said.

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