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Resident behind Poquonnock Bridge's second FOI complaint

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published September 08. 2012 4:00AM

Groton - A complaint filed Aug. 29 with the state Freedom of Information Commission questions the legitimacy of a vote last month that expanded the Poquonnock Bridge Fire District board from five to nine members.

In the complaint, resident Adam Petrillo argues that the Aug. 1 vote to increase the size of the board took place at a meeting in which public participation was prohibited. He also said that no agenda item about the nomination process was posted.

This is the second FOI complaint about a district board meeting in recent weeks and appears to stem from a shakeup in board leadership in May at the fire district's annual meeting when members chose three new members, including Board President Christopher Clark and Vice President Kevin Czapla. The change came at a time when former Board President Alan Ackley had explored openly the idea of consolidating the district with the town.

At 5.9 mills, Poquonnock Bridge has the highest tax rate among the nine fire districts in Groton.

The new four-member board later voted 2-1 on a 10-year contract with the Poquonnock Bridge Professional Firefighters Association, Local 2704. The contract carried annual 3 percent wage increases, higher salaries at other positions and an automatic 3 percent increase in payments to retirees.

The vote riled former members who then lobbied for a district-wide special meeting to increase board membership by five. Among the newcomers were former president Ackley and former vice president Peter Legnos.

Board member Nancy Beckwith, the lone dissenting vote on the union contract who kept her position after the shakeup in May, filed an FOI complaint challenging the contract vote.

Without waiting for any input from the FOI Commission, the newly-expanded board agreed with her arguments and voted Thursday to nullify the contract and all the other matters the four-member board had voted on that night.

The impact of the new complaint is unclear and board members and union officials could not be reached for comment on Friday. Beckwith said Thursday that she received word of the new complaint but said she believes that the meeting was conducted legally and with proper notification.

Neither Beckwith's nor Petrillo's complaints have been taken up by the FOI commission, according to Thomas Hennick, the commission spokesman.

Complaints are reviewed in the order they are received, Hennick said. He expects it will be at least a month before the complaints are read since the commission is still reviewing complaints filed in July.

g.smith@theday.com

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