STONINGTON — The Board of Selectmen heard a blistering account of police Detective Greg Howard’s interactions with town Building Official Lawrence Stannard and his assistant, Robert Chevalier, during its Wednesday meeting at the police station before a crowd of about 25, most of whom were there in solidarity with Howard.
Howard, who recently presented a public complaint on the Stonington Community Forum on Facebook outlining a lengthy and challenging history of interaction with Stannard and Chevalier, read a personal statement to Selectmen John Prue and Kate Rotella. First Selectman Rob Simmons, to whom the letter was addressed, was not at the meeting because of a family matter.
In his letter, Howard accused Stannard and Chevalier of being “rude, condescending, and unprofessional,” and exhibiting “an abuse of authority to push their own will with building projects.” He noted incidents in which suggestions were made to repair items in his home that were not required by code. He also noted that he was questioned as to whether inspections he had scheduled and paid for were indeed conducted.
Howard said he spoke with about 50 other individuals and businesses in town who have had similar experiences with the building official’s office, and that few were willing to come forward for “fear of retaliation,” as their projects have not yet been approved by the department.
Howard continued by describing a meeting he had with Stannard a little over a week ago, during which Stannard refused to shake his outstretched hand. Stanndard commented that he would do it “maybe later,” Howard said.
Howard said that Stannard’s behavior was addressed right away by Simmons, who was present, but “his willingness to do this exhibits blatant disregard for courtesy and professionalism.” He went on to liken the building official’s behavior to bullying.
“I saw an abuse of power,” he continued, “that can only be known as bullying. They weren’t going to bully me.”
He told the selectmen that “a change must be made.” The crowd applauded at the end of Howard’s letter. The floor was opened to further comments, but no one else spoke.
Prue thanked Howard for bringing his own, and others,’ concerns to their attention and assured him the issue is “in First Selectman Simmons’ office,” adding, “There is a process that has been initiated and is being followed.”
Prue continued by explaining his own expectations, “that communications be courteous and professional.”
Rotella told Howard, “I am very concerned to hear some of the things that I’ve heard,” and in response to Howard’s statement that local citizens feared retaliation, she said, “I don’t want anyone to feel they can’t come and talk to us.”
Both Prue and Rotella urged patience.
Howard, after the meeting, said he was very comfortable bringing the issue to the board.
“I’ve been standing up for people since I was in the third grade, and I’m not going to stop now,” he said. “Through me, now many others’ voices have been heard, and hopefully this conduct will come to a stop.”