No conflict in alderman’s vote on Route 82 project

Norwich ― The city’s Ethics Commission decided on Monday that Alderman Swaranjit Singh Khalsa had no conflict of interest when he voted September 6 on aspects of the controversial proposed state reconstruction of Route 82-West Main Street.

Singh had sought an advisory opinion on the matter from the Ethics Commission.

Singh was one of four council Democrats who voted to accept the city’s maintenance responsibility for future sidewalks, proposed roundabout centers and acceptance of a new lane public proposed in the project. Both resolutions passed 4-3 with the council’s four Democrats in favor and its three Republicans — Mayor Peter Nystrom, Alderman Stacy Gould and Alderman Grant Neuendorf in opposition.

The State Department of Transportation project involves the acquisition of five properties along West Main Street, including a Shell service station at the West Main-Dunham Street intersection. Khalsa owns the Norwichtown Shell gas station at 168 W. Town St., 4.2 miles from the West Main Street station, which he does not own.

Khalsa sought an advisory opinion from the city’s ethics commission after receiving a letter on Sept. 7 from the three council Republicans saying his vote gave “the appearance of impropriety” because the closure of a gas station could send more business to his station.

In his letter to the ethics commission requesting the advisory opinion, Khalsa wrote that he believed the letter from council Republicans was “part of a politically motivated decision to delay work on Route 82.”

At the September 19 city council meeting, Khalsa asked that the September 6 vote be reconsidered at the November 21 council meeting, to give the ethics commission time to render its advisory opinion.

In his application to the ethics commission, Khalsa told the commission that he saw no conflict of interest in his Sept. 6 vote. The resolution did not address the DOT’s proposed property acquisition and only addressed the city’s maintenance of the public portions of the project. The resolution allowed DOT to proceed with the design phase.

Khalsa also told the commission in his letter that Norwich has 16 service stations and there are six stations between the West Main Street station to be acquired and its station on the other side of town. He told the commission that the nearest Shell station is in Uncasville in the opposite direction.

The four commission members who attended Monday’s special meeting all agreed that Khalsa had no conflict of interest on September 6, as the resolutions did not relate to the potential acquisition or closure of the gas station. .

But in its forthcoming written advisory, the commission will advise all city officials “out of an abundance of caution” to recuse themselves in any vote involving the acquisition of property by a city or state in eminent domain in situations where they have a financial interest in a competitor. Company.

Khalsa did not attend Monday’s ethics committee meeting, as he was attending the council’s public works and capital improvements committee held ahead of Monday’s city council meeting.

Khalsa said he was grateful to the commission for addressing the issue in time for the ongoing review on Nov. 21.

“I’m glad they cleared things up,” Khalsa said. “…It’s better. Often people just want to make a fuss about it. Although I personally knew there was no conflict of interest, it’s important to keep other opinions in mind .

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