Council Issues Sanctions Over Emails

FAIRFIELD – In a special called meeting June 5, Fairfield County Council voted unanimously to sanction the County Administrator, Phil Hinely, for forwarding inappropriate emails from his County computer back in 2010. Hinely was placed on probation by Council, to be reviewed by the Chairman, Vice Chairman and County IT Director at the end of a six-month period. Hinely’s salary of $119,530 was reduced 5 percent by Council for the duration of the probationary period, and he will be expected to submit an official letter of apology to Fairfield’s local newspapers. Council also voted to include contract employees under the same policy manual as regular, at-will employees, except where the manual conflicts with the contract. In that case, Chairman David Ferguson said, the contract will prevail.

Ferguson (District 5) said he was pleased with the outcome of the June 5 meeting and that Council’s decision would be the last word on the matter.

“That was the consensus of the group after meeting with our attorney,” Ferguson said. “Everyone appeared to be satisfied. We’re not going back and massaging this thing again. We’ve got bigger fish to fry than this mess. The County Administrator agreed; he was very amenable. He realizes he made a mistake – we all do.”

The State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) opened a case file in February on Hinely’s email activities after someone brought to them alleged emails containing graphic images of nude women that were asserted to have been sent from Hinely’s County email address. SLED closed the file within weeks after determining the images were not illegal and told The Voice that they never conducted an investigation to determine the source of the alleged emails. Hinely told The Voice that he forwarded emails for a short period in 2010 that, in hindsight, he considered inappropriate, but said he never sent anyone pornography and claimed the materials in SLED’s file did not come from his computer.

“I did something stupid,” Hinely said after Council’s June 5 decision. “It wasn’t as bad as what I was accused of doing, but I should have known better. I regret that it’s caused anyone any embarrassment. I’m willing to do whatever Council asks of me. We’re in the middle of a lot of good things for Fairfield County. I think the punishment fit the crime.”

Councilwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2), however, said that in the business world the punishment would not have fit the crime. Still, she said, she accepted the majority decision.

“That’s what the majority of Council felt was the right thing to do,” Robinson said. “As a Council, we have to be satisfied.”

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