First selectman had rejected Crouse’s challenge to limit fundraising to $6,000
Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons has returned two campaign contributions to avoid a conflict of interest.
Stonington — Republican First Selectman Rob Simmons said this week that he has returned two campaign contributions totaling $1,100 because the donors have pending business before the town.
He said he returned a $1,000 donation from David Lattizori of Groton Long Point, who is developing the Coogan Farm property into a medical research and residential campus. Lattizori is expected to file an application soon for the final approval he needs from the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Simmons said that because of this, he felt it best not to have a contribution from Lattizori “to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.” Simmons said he has known Lattizori for many years.
He also said he returned a $100 contribution from Robert Hannon of Washington Street in Mystic because a neighbor has filed a complaint with the town charging that Hannon is operating an illegal short term rental. Simmons said the town attorney is reviewing the complaint.
Simmons said the returns will appear in the next campaign finance report to be filed at the end of the month.
“There’s nothing wrong or illegal about either contribution but I wanted to avoid any conflict of interest,” Simmons said.
He said he called both men and told them he appreciated their support and explained why he was returning their donations.
Simmons rebuffed Democratic challenger George Crouse’s public challenge to limit fundraising to $6,000. Through Sept. 30 Simmons, along with his running mate, selectman candidate John Prue, raised $10,420 for the election. The return of the two donations will reduce that to $9,320.
Crouse, meanwhile, has filed a document with the state Elections Enforcement Commission saying he is exempt from filing candidate committee fundraising reports, because he is among a slate of candidates whose campaigns are being funded solely by the Democratic Town Committee, which will file a report showing what it has spent on his behalf.
The Democratic Town Committee’s report filed Tuesday shows it has raised $7,468 but not expended any money through Sept. 30. Crouse has pledged not to spend more than $6,000.
Three weeks ago, Crouse, who was defeated by Simmons in 2015, issued a joint statement along with Democratic Town Committee Chairman Scott Bates and incumbent Democratic Selectwoman Kate Rotella, saying the limit would stop big money and outside groups from influencing the election. They could not say what groups those might be.
Simmons, who raised $33,195 to Crouse’s $5,125 in 2015, said he would not limit his fundraising as donations had come in and he had planned out his campaign strategy.