Dispute between town of Wolcott and zoning officer over health insurance may result in lawsuit

Wolcott Zoning Enforcement Officer David Kalinowski speaks during a meeting of the he Wolcott Planning and Zoning Commission Wednesday at Wolcott Town Hall. Jim Shannon Republican-American

WOLCOTT — The town has terminated the health insurance benefits of Zoning Enforcement Officer David Kalinowski, prompting the threat of litigation for breach of contract.

“He has a reasonable reliance on the assurances made by both the mayor and town staff,” Kalinowski’s attorneys wrote in an email to Mayor Thomas G. Dunn on Aug. 18.

Kalinowski, 60, resigned effective May 15 but initially received the same health insurance as employees who retired at 65. In July, Dunn said Kalinowski accumulated enough time to carry him to 15 years, making him eligible to retire early under the Department of Public Works union contract.

During a July 21 meeting, Town Council members questioned whether Dunn made a deal with Kalinowski without informing the council, but did not receive a clear answer.

Now, Kalinowski’s benefits will be terminated effective Aug 31.

“We sent a letter out that he wouldn’t be receiving any more, and I think there’ll be more discussion in executive session,” Dunn said during the council’s last meeting Aug. 18.

That same day, attorneys for Kalinowski emailed Dunn demanding the town reinstate his health benefits “pursuant to the agreement” between Dunn and Kalinowski. However, a letter from the town to Kalinowski said the benefits were awarded due to a “mutual error.”

Reached Thursday, Dunn said he’d have to check with his attorneys before he could explain the error or say whether he had an agreement with Kalinowski.

“To be clear, there was no mutual mistake,” states the letter, signed by Rocky Hill-based Attorneys James Ferguson and James Demetriades. The attorneys say Kalinowski retired under the consideration he’d continue to receive his health care benefits

Reached Friday, Demetriades declined to comment, noting the ongoing personnel matter.

The letter also asks Dunn and the Town Council to “cease their illegal intervention in the affairs of the Planning and Zoning Commission.”

Dunn has applied for a zoning text change that would maintain the commission’s power to appoint a ZEO, but with approval from the Town Council. On Wednesday, the commission accepted the application for review and forwarded it to an outside attorney.

State statutes recognize zoning agencies as “independent bodies,” which are free from control or supervision of the Town Council, the letter from Kalinowski’s attorneys says.

Less than a month after he retired, Kalinowski was reappointed by the Planning and Zoning Commission on June 2 to handle a “backlog” of zoning applications. The commission has the authority to approve the ZEO without the mayor or Town Council’s oversight, according to the town’s zoning regulations.

The Town Council has questioned why the commission would reappoint Kalinowski, who was the focus of a police investigation into alleged thefts from the town’s Department of Public Works earlier this year. Police found probable cause to charge him with four counts of larceny, but a local prosecutor declined to pursue the case.

Kalinowski, who denies the charges, has been working as “consulting ZEO” without a contract since early June. Days after the Town Council rejected Kalinowski’s contract and asked the commission to name a new ZEO, Kalinowski billed the town for 10.5 hours of work at $80 an hour for work during June. The council has refused to authorize payment for the bill, and interest was set to begin accruing Aug. 4.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Raymond Mahoney has vehemently defended Kalinowski and refused to engage with the Town Council, which invited him to two meetings.

Wolcott Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Raymond Mahoney makes a motion to move their meeting into executive session Wednesday at Wolcott Town Hall. Jim Shannon Republican-American

On Tuesday, he is set to appear before the council for a hearing, but it’s unclear whether he will attend. The council doesn’t have the authority to issue a subpoena, according to Town Attorney Brian Tynan.

Kalinowski was hired July 13, 2005 as head of the DPW and took on the additional role of ZEO in February 2006. He oversaw construction of the Mill Pond Way Walking Trail and says he’s donated services to the town, including construction of the Wolcott Sports Complex.

An exchange between Councilman Fran Masi and Mayor Thomas G. Dunn during the Aug. 18 Wolcott, Town Council meeting.