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Woodbury Resident Files Sexual Harassment Complaint Against First Selectman

Former committee chair files complaint against First Selectman Gerald Stomski for comment made at May town meeting.

 

A Woodbury resident filed an affidavit alleging discriminatory practice by First Selectman Gerald Stomski in reference to a comment made at a town meeting in May 2012.

In the complaint filed on Oct. 17 with the State Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, Linda Zukauskas, 47, of Transylvania Road, claims that Stomski brought undue attention to her as a female, which she found “to be sexually harassing and insulting.”

During a meeting on a proposed open space purchase, Stomski motioned to the press and asked that they include certain information in their reports, as public attendance was low. Zukauskas, a reporter for Voices covering Newtown and Middlebury, spoke up, making it clear that she was there as a resident and not in her role as a reporter or as chairman of the Energy Committee.

When Stomski stated that he was speaking to the other members of the media present, Zukauskas asked, “Then why are you looking at me?”

According to both parties, Stomski responded that if he was looking at Zukauskas, it was because she is “attractive.”

“I used the word ‘attractive,’” Stomski said Monday during an interview. “It’s an adjective I use all the time.”

Stomski said he intended the comment to be innocuous and a compliment, noting that his wife of 33 years was in the audience.

“It’s similar to saying, ‘It was an attractive crowd that was there last night,’ or saying to my wife as we walk into church, ‘Boy, that’s an attractive couple with an attractive family,’” Stomski asserted. “Is that sexual?”

However, Zukauskas said the comment made her feel “very uncomfortable.”

“I don’t think he gets why it is offensive,” she said Monday. “I don’t want a married guy saying he’s starring at me because I’m attractive in front of the entire town… It doesn’t matter if he thinks the word is OK, if it makes someone uncomfortable you have to respect that person.”

Zukauskas said she was taken aback by the comment at the time and even more embarrassed when several people approached her after the meeting to talk about it.

Since that time, Zukauskas said she has avoided “meetings where I know he’ll preside,” or any local government meetings as of late.

Zukauskas called the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities shortly after the May meeting before explaining the incident over the phone to a representative in June and sitting down for a formal interview with the Commission in October, when the official complaint was filed.

Stomski’s legal counsel responded to the complaint, as required, stating that the single comment “is absolutely insufficient to establish harassment,” and alleging, “her motivation for the complaint is simply to harm First Selectman Gerald Stomski.”

“If she had come to me after the meeting and told me she was offended I would have apologized,” Stomski said. “I would have been more than happy to apologize to her and would apologize to her today.”

However, he added that her assertions of harassment are “not consistent with the language of sexual harassment [laws] and suspicious as to motive and timing,” citing that 2013 is an election year. (Stomski has yet to announce whether he will run for another term and declined to comment on his political future Monday.)

A History at Odds

In Stomski’s affidavit in response, his legal counsel states that the complaint “is nothing more than a blatant attempt to personally and politically besmirch First Selectman Gerald Stomski. Besides being members of different political parties, Ms. Zukauskas’ attack is motivated by First Selectman Gerald Stomski and the Board of Selectmen disbandment of an ad hoc committee of which Ms. Zukauskas was a member.”

The Energy Committee, which Zukauskas chaired, was established in 2009 and renewed for an additional year in December 2011 before being dissolved by the Woodbury Board of Selectmen in September 2012.

Along with the timing of the dissolution of the Energy Committee, Stomski noted that Zukauskas was a member of Woodbury First, a self-described “non-partisan coalition” that supported Unaffiliated First Selectman candidate Alex DeSorbo in 2011.

With another election on the horizon, Stomski said he believes the accusation of harassment is a “precursor to an election year and all the silliness that comes with it.”

Zukauskas denied a political agenda, stating that her work on behalf of Woodbury First was in support of bipartisan policies and unifying Unaffiliated voters. Zukauskas said she has been registered as Unaffiliated for almost three decades and described her political views as fiscally conservative, “prefer[ring] less government to more,” which tend to be tenets of the Republican Party, though she has voted for local candidates from both parties.

Zukauskas said she brought the complaint after what she describes as a history of mistreatment from Stomski.

“This wasn’t the first time,” she said. “He’s yelled at me, made derogatory comments — and those things only seem to get worse over time.”

Zukauskas referenced an incident in February 2011 during a bid opening in the Shove Building. Stomski entered the meeting room and asked Zukauskas to speak with him in his office, the next room over. As they entered the office, Stomski asked Zukauskas to close the door behind her, which she refused.

“I said I wouldn’t meet with him in private and needed to leave the door open,” Zukauskas said Monday. “He yelled and said he could do what he wanted with his door… That’s what he does, he just yells, he doesn’t say, ‘Can we work on this?’”

Zukauskas sent an e-mail to Stomski’s first selectman account on Feb. 15, 2011 [see attached], stating that she “didn’t want to close the door because I do not want to meet with you privately,” and accusing Stomski of “distracting me from doing my best for Woodbury.”

Stomski replied that they would not have to meet privately, “Unless it has to do with town legal matters.”

Stomski said Monday he remembered the incident but not the e-mail correspondence afterward.

“It is a very busy office,” he said, as several town departments share the workspace. “I wanted to close the door because of all the sound. I said, ‘I have a right to close the door.’ Not yelling and nothing sexually motivated.”

The February 2011 incident is not included in the harassment complaint, which the town’s insurance carrier will be handling moving forward, according to Stomski.

“There are two sides to every story — he has a valid side, too,” Zukauskas said. “I just want to be able to serve my town without feeling uncomfortable.”

She said a satisfactory outcome from the complaint would be for Stomski to attend a counseling program.

Sean M February 14, 2013 at 04:45 PM
The focus needs to be on a number of issues: 1. What is going to be done when the state cuts more aid to Woodbury? Region 14 spends way too much money and needs to start being responsible. The town is about a third of the total property tax bill and there is not a whole lot to carve out. 2. The numerous empty commercial spaces in town, which is a result of dysfunctional to flat out ineffective land use boards, which includes a lot more than Zoning. 3. The abundance of commercial space affects everyone in town. Taxes are different when a space is rented vs not. Every time someone drives by these vacant places, remember tax could be being paid to reduce your property tax bill. 4. Given the unneeded shifting of property taxes to residential, this also devalues homes. Higher property tax rates are inverse to property values. Ever see what homes go for in the nice parts of Waterbury? This is because of their obscene property tax rates. These issues are the ones people like Jerry, myself, and many others are working to deal with. Instead we get nit-picked by the usual Democrats over at best minor issues. This is another technique used in politics: deflecting. Distract the people from the real issues. Martin Overton does this all the time. Yet another Alinsky tactic.
Eri February 16, 2013 at 04:01 PM
1. Cheryl- Please do not quote Caesar when you do not understand the meaning nor the context of the quotation. 2. Linda needs a hobby; this is absolutely pathetic and uncalled for.
such a nice little town February 17, 2013 at 06:46 PM
Ms. Robillard, beautifully put and thanks for the only objective post here. I'd say "shame on you" to all the others who are so quick, and unqualified, to judge this woman's claim. It's amazing that you are all so sure it is baseless! I'd hate to be the the defendant in a trial where you were called to serve on the jury. How can we hope that our children will speak out against bullying if we defend the bully ("he is always polite to me, this can't be true") or empower women to be courageous at the hands of an abuser ("I know him and he's a great guy, she's making this up")? And to Mr. Murphy, who could also use another hobby besides criticizing every Patch commenter if his/her views don't mirror his, and who seems to have unlimited time to do this, try this Eleanor Roosevelt quote on for size: "The battle for the individual rights of women is one of long standing and none of us should countenance anything which undermines it" I hope for a just outcome in this matter; however, I would never condemn Ms. Zukaukas for having the courage to stand up for what she believes is true. Sean "the Patriot" Murphy, I think you would agree with this if she didn't happen to be going after someone you pander to. If she were accusing someone, say, named Martin Overton, for example.
Sean M February 17, 2013 at 10:14 PM
Dear "such a little nice town" Linda's motivations are subject to question, especially the behavior of the people and organization she associated with. Based upon what was said, I believe it is baseless. If someone is offended by being told once they look nice, that is on them. At least I put my name to my comments. You hide behind yours. If Dictator Overton was treated in such a manner, I would defend him. I have defended the Dictator more than once at the Zoning meetings and will gladly defend what is right, even if I dislike the person. There are actually people in this world who will do this. As for the time I spend commenting, that is what I choose to do. I have been writing letters for years. I post stuff all the time on a number of mediums. Some people like to knit, some people like to cook, I like to discuss and debate. I will certainly speak up against a bully and defend someone being bullied. Funny how you talk about mistreatment yet refuse to criticize Overton and his conduct.
Cheryl February 18, 2013 at 07:53 PM
Oh, but I do understand it, and I do believe I have used the quote in the correct context. By the way, the quote (from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar) is from Brutus, not Caesar (Act III, Scene ii)

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