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Haberek's role remains unclear in town talks over Pawcatuck woman's lawsuit

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published January 23. 2012 4:00AM
Other selectmen haven't decided if top Stonington official should stay out of discussions

Stonington - The other two members of the Board of Selectmen say they have not yet decided whether they will call upon First Selectman Ed Haberek to step down from upcoming discussions about how the town should handle the Tracy Swain lawsuit.

The Pawcatuck woman has sued the town and Haberek saying that in January of 2010 he sent her "sexually graphic photos of himself" using his town-issued BlackBerry.

At last week's Board of Finance meeting, in which board members expressed concern about the legal fees the town may incur from the lawsuit, Town Attorney Thomas Londregan said a decision about whether to fight the lawsuit or settle it will rest with the Board of Selectmen.

Some finance board members are concerned that Haberek appears to have a conflict of interest in that decision because it is his alleged conduct that led to the suit. After the meeting, Haberek said it is too early to say whether he would recuse himself from the discussion about how to handle the case.

He also pointed out that he is named in most every lawsuit filed against the town by virtue of being the town's chief elected official.

Selectmen George Crouse, who was Haberek's Democratic running mate in the last two elections, said he doesn't know enough about the lawsuit yet to decide whether he thinks Haberek should remove himself from discussions about the suit.

"I need to see all the facts and talk to the town attorney," he said. "But rest assured I will do what is right for the town and to protect the town."

Republican Selectwoman Glee McAnanly said she too wants to get all the facts and review the situation so she can "come to a thoughtful conclusion."

She said that once she feels she has enough information, she will discuss her position at a Board of Selectmen meeting.

Last week, Haberek and Londregan said the town will no longer oppose attempts by Swain to obtain evidence from a cellphone company that she claims will show that Haberek sent her the photos.

The town had taken legal action to a stop her from obtaining copies of the alleged photos, as well as the content of emails and text messages sent from Haberek's phone number from Verizon, the town's cellphone provider. Town officials hope the change in strategy will help extricate the town from the lawsuit.

But Swain's suit also charges that the town allowed Haberek to contact Swain inappropriately, let him transmit graphic photos of himself using town equipment, failed to monitor Haberek's communications and failed to enforce a policy regarding proper use of town equipment and electronic communications.

Swain's suit states that prior to Jan. 12, 2010, Haberek had extensive telephone, email, text message and Facebook communication with her. When Swain told him on that date to stop sending the messages, he allegedly sent her the photos of himself. Swain has said that Haberek told her he sent those messages while he was in his office.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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