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Old Lyme commission says attorney violated ethics code

October 25, 2018 GMT

Old Lyme — The town Ethics Commission recently found that attorney David Royston, whose firm regularly represents the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, should have sought the Ethics Commission’s approval to assist HOPE Partnership with its application for a proposed affordable housing project.

The project calls for a 37-unit affordable housing development to be built on two adjacent land parcels by Interstate 95 North Exit 70 off-ramp and Neck Road (Route 156). Royston helped Hope Partnership file the application to the town’s Zoning Commission, which approved it earlier this month.

According to the town’s Code of Ethics, “no paid consultant of the Town shall represent a private party in any action or proceeding against the town.”

Commission Chairman Robert Staab said that the commission considers Royston’s firm — Dzialo, Pickett & Allen, P.C. of Old Saybrook — a paid consultant to the town. But neither the firm, nor Royston, sought a waiver from the Ethics Commission to represent HOPE in its application to the town’s Zoning Commission earlier this year.

Concerns of Royston’s representation were voiced earlier this year at a public hearing regarding the affordable housing application, and a formal complaint over the matter was filed to the town’s Ethics Commission in June by Peter Thomas of 17 Gould Lane. Thomas’s road lies adjacent to the proposed location of the affordable housing project.

Royston’s firm responded in writing to the complaint with the Ethics Commission, stating that there was no conflict of interest “according to the Connecticut Code of Professional Conduct which governs licensed attorneys in Connecticut.”

Staab said Wednesday that the firm also formally has asked the commission to reconsider its finding and to review additional information that they soon will present to the commission.

Staab said that request was received by the commission last week and the commission likely will review its findings again, though a definitive decision has not been made on the matter. He said that the Ethics Commission only makes determinations based on town codes and not based on state codes, and therefore could not determine if the commission would reverse its findings.

Royston declined to comment about the commission’s findings Wednesday, and HOPE Partnership did not return phone calls left Wednesday.

The Ethics Commission did not recommend any action regarding its decision, and formally cannot do so, according to Staab.

“We are not law enforcement, we are a volunteer commission serving the town. We can only give them our opinion,” Staab said.

According to First Selectman Bonnie Reemsnyder, the Board of Selectmen can become involved with the situation only if an appeal is filed against the commission’s findings. In that case, the Board of Selectmen would become the appellate board to rule on the complaint.

m.biekert@theday.com