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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 12, 2013 at 02:33 PM
This is clearly part of the new strategy of the opposition in town. File complaints, sue, and use the power of government to shut down the opposition, which they cannot defeat in the realm of ideas. Right out of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. Marginalize the person. Jerry is a good and decent man. He has done a lot of good for the town. He has cleaned up a number of messes left by Paul Hinckley, George Hale, and Charles Bartlett from their one term running the Board of Selectmen and the mess that Dick Crane left in town. There is a small and vocal group in town that had power for a long time and did things that should not have been done. Now the ship is being righted, but not without the huge amount of nastiness. The Democrat Town Committee has gotten in on this too. They are for anything that makes Republicans look bad. I would love to serve the town as I was elected to do without feeling uncomfortable too. Martin Overton is rude and abusive to me, other members of the Zoning Commission, and town staff. I had to leave a Zoning meeting after Overton repeatedly demand I be arrested. Where is my right not to feel uncomfortable? That conduct is far worse than anything Jerry supposedly did. Or does it just apply to Democrats and the Woodburt First crowd. Answer: it does.
Sean M February 12, 2013 at 03:06 PM
The lawyers love this behavior from the Democrats/Woodbury First crowd. They are making a lot of money off of the inability of grown adults to act like adults.
Voice of Reason February 12, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Really??? A single incident of calling someone "Attractive" (regardless of context) and without prior condemnation of such term by the "receiving" party is now to be considered sexual harassment? Does Ms. Zukauskas cry foul if a man holds the door for her too? "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?”" Gee, maybe he was looking at you as you felt the need to speak up. Ever consider that? I'd suggest the "aggrieved" party consider their role in why things may go the way they do. Sounds to me as if there is indeed an agenda. Perhaps do to philosophical differences? Wasting taxpayer dollars for such an innocuous statement is asinine.
Donald Borsch Jr. February 12, 2013 at 04:06 PM
Mr. Stomski, Now that the 'sexual harassment card' has been thrown down, no matter what happens, people will always think of you in this context. It doesn't matter if she is found to be full of hot air. Her mission is completed. Sorry, sir. You are now the victim of an agenda.
PaulCT February 12, 2013 at 05:04 PM
I absolutely agree with each of the comments above. Sounds to me like Linda Zukauskas needs to get over herself.
Jean Carnese February 12, 2013 at 06:02 PM
Silly, silly, silly! I really feel sorry for Linda because she obviously does not know how to accept a public compliment gracefully. Having placed herself in the public eye both through her career in the media and her open participation in civic and political affairs, it is amazing that she has not learned to be more rational and less sensitive. The interesting thing is that she claims to be embarrassed by Jerry's comments at the Town Meeting, and yet she has put herself in this ridiculous position where she should be truly embarrassed by the comments and chortles being heard in the community about these charges.
Elena Bowen February 12, 2013 at 07:04 PM
Grow up!! She's out of line. I am not a big fan of Stomski but he was correct when he said she should have addressed him after the meeting. I work hard for my money. I don't want it to go lawyers. Please!!
jim obanion February 12, 2013 at 07:18 PM
Linda Z. U should be ashamed of yourself. Trying to drag a mans name through the mud all for calling you attractive!!! Omg really- what is this world coming to! Get a grip, apologize to the selectman, to the family and to the community and move on.
PaulCT February 12, 2013 at 09:26 PM
Remember, Ms. Z is a reporter for Voices. A reporter. That might give us a sense of where her fabricated sensationalism is coming from. And, Elena, you are right, do we really want OUR tax money spent on this ______ (fill in your own ending). An apology from HER and the taxpayers is needed. Good luck with that!
Adrian Lewis February 12, 2013 at 09:48 PM
I cannot believe the lengths some will go to. This is proof here that one must grasp at straws. I've known Jerry for many many years. I've known his family for many many years as well. Jerry is a phenomenal father and a devoted husband. The town of Woodbury should be very proud of the progress made since he has been our selectman. Why would anyone put their life, career, and reputation on the line in the way that this reporter is accusing? I know Jerry would not and I wonder how long Ms.Zukauskas has been dreaming this up. And for what reason? Maybe she should learn to say thank you when given a compliment or perhaps seek some advice from a professional as to why she lacks confidence when complimented. Jerry always tells me how wonderful I look - how my son has grown- etc etc. It's nice to hear. Shame on you Ms.Z!!!!
Kristin Ingersoll February 12, 2013 at 11:37 PM
I'm there are sexual harassment victims out there that would wish that was all that was said to them! Sexual harassment can take on all forms, and to me this just doesn't seem like it is... I feel for Mr. Stomski and his family. Hopefully, the truth will prevail. And for the Stomskis - stay strong.
Kathy Velky February 13, 2013 at 12:30 AM
We have known Jerry for many years and it is NOT Jerry's character to sexually harass anyone. Hope you're running again Jerry because you have our vote.
Bob K February 13, 2013 at 12:18 PM
OMG ! What next, Sexual Harrassment charges filed against someone for saying "I hope you feel better", or perhaps "I hope you have a nice day"? Good grief !
Cheryl February 13, 2013 at 12:32 PM
As a woman, I believe it is never acceptable to be singled out for unwanted attention about appearance, especially in a public setting. If I were sitting in a meeting at work and someone keeps staring at me, or says that I'm "attractive", it would be, by law, considered sexual harassment. I am surprised that the issue is being framed as being politically-motivated. If you carefully read the article, you'll see that the initial complaint by Ms Zukauskas was made to the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities at least three months before the dissolution of the Energy Commission. I don't understand how her complaint could be in retaliation for an event that hadn't yet taken place. Additionally, the Woodbury First party, of which Ms Zukauskas was part, is no longer in existence. What political benefit would she have by making this allegation? It's now up to the state's Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities to investigate and arrive at a decision. I hope that, regardless of the eventual outcome, that this becomes a lesson to all about how we should be aware of how our words are perceived by others.
Schmish February 13, 2013 at 02:45 PM
The central matter is whether or not it is professional and appropriate to call someone attractive in a public meeting when you're a public official. I don't think it was his smartest decision, but I don't know him so I won't dare comment on his overall character. In regards to the comments about Mrs. Zukauskas.....Stomski's good deeds are being used as evidence that he wouldn't do such a thing. It's wonderful that he has done these things, but many people (not necessarily Stomski) who do terrible things can also be a great public figure. Why do you think it's so difficult in many cases to press charges? Too many people rush forward in defense citing unrelated works of kindness. Anything good he has done in his position is wonderful, but off topic. Comments such as these make people afraid to speak out. There were also some comments about this incident not being as terrible as others, thus not being sexual harassment. Even if you think Mrs. Zukauskas is full of hot air, making statements such as these are what creates further doubt and haze in the minds of those who are in fact abused. Don't let anyone think that severity of an incident determines whether or not someone should seek help or legal action. And lastly, I don't understand the disdain for reporters. I think the comment about fabricated sensationalism is just insulting and unnecessary. You can not agree with her, or think her motivations weren't pure without judging everyone in her field of work.
Cheryl February 13, 2013 at 04:00 PM
For Brutus is an honourable man . . .
Sean M February 13, 2013 at 09:50 PM
We will go insane if we take Cheryl's advice. "I hope that, regardless of the eventual outcome, that this becomes a lesson to all about how we should be aware of how our words are perceived by others." No reasonable person would be offended at this. I guess we should pander to the lowest common element and spend all our energy worrying about not offending anyone. I have seen first hand and been bullied by the Democrat Town Committee and the Woodbury First crowd. Tactics like this are right out of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. Democrats have been using these in town for years now. No ideas, so let us abuse the opposition in any way possible. As for what political benefit could be gained from doing this, that is easy. Smear and malign the opposition. When you have a political party in town devoid of ideas and solutions, that is how they play to win. This stuff is used to malign the character of the victim (Jerry in this case). Lose in the realm of ideas and that is all that is left. I have never met a female who was insulted when being referred to as attractive. If someone is offended at that, that is on them. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. --Eleanor Roosevelt.
Sean M February 13, 2013 at 09:57 PM
You do not understand the disdain for reporters? Try dealing with them to do their job and tell the truth. I cannot even count the number of times the media refuses to report the truth. Reporters and media tend to be well left of center and give conservatives (and by extension Republicans) the short end of the stick.
Schmish February 14, 2013 at 02:15 AM
Mr. Murphy, the media is made up of people. These people have political beliefs. The northeast, as a general rule, is largely "well left of center". If you think that the media in this area is biased in the opposing direction, it's probably because they are. If you talk to a democratic politician in Arkansas, they'll have a similar complaint. We'll have a biased media until the end of time, or until we somehow create robots that can report news. This isn't because I think reporters are "bad", but because nobody is perfect. I think they, for the most part, do an amazing job at keeping their opinions to themselves....but if you do happen to see a bit of a lean you don't like, it's just how ti is everywhere. I think you simply notice it more because it's not your lean. I think the article fairly portrayed both sides of the matter. You're giving me the feeling that you just didn't want this reported at all. Being called attractive was not the problem. It was the context in which the statement was made that was, to some, inappropriate. For example, my husband can call me attractive. Some of my friends do....but if my boss told me I was attractive, I would definitely see that as inappropriate. That comment would not have been made had she been a man. I also don't think he would have snapped at her about closing the door if she was a man. Whether or not they're deemed sexual harassment, they'r just not smart moves on his part.
Miles O February 14, 2013 at 03:59 AM
Karen If being called attractive is not the problem, as you have stated, then under what context are you referring to that was inappropriate. As I read it. Mr. Stomski was not staring at her. He was speaking to the other press members when she engaged him in conversation , then she asked him why he was looking at her? By the way, when is closing a door to an office so that a discussion can be heard over outside office noise sexual Harrassment ? Screaming and hollering . Perhaps one side of the story. It would be interesting to inquire of the office staff present if there was in fact was screaming and hollering? I think someone has an agenda! By the way, that was a very attractive commentary that you wrote.
Sean M February 14, 2013 at 01:21 PM
In my experience, the vast majority of reporters are well left of center. I have witnessed first hand the refusing to report the whole story of media in this area. I have seen it with Zoning and a number of issues relating just to that. Liberal bias is bias by omission. Seen anything in the old media on Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez and his underage prostitution? How about real coverage on Benghazi? How about Fast and Furious? Even better how about the lie that gun owners at the Hartford hearing "heckling" a father of a child murdered in Newtown? Or how about the extensive coverage by the media of Lou Deluca's issues while ignoring Democrats who 1. Left a woman to freeze to death 2. Double billed the state and a PAC for expenses 3. Committed forgery 4. Stood in the room while Ernie Newton took a bribe and was silent 5. I am sure I missed a few. I will say this article is very well done. Potentially relevant background information was included and the reader gets a lot of information and can come to their own conclusions. If a complaint of this nature is filed, it is newsworthy. Whether it has validity is another matter all together.
Sean M February 14, 2013 at 01:26 PM
There is a difference between inappropriate and requiring legal action. If I say something on the lines of that to a woman and she is uncomfortable, a simple private request to not bring it up again is sufficient. I have had that happen before. Not a big deal. That is the nature of dealing with people. If after being asked not to say YYY, and that person continues to do it, then there is a problem. I had a situation with Jerry when he did something I took a small issue with. I just talked to him and it was over and never a problem again. I have put my foot in my mouth more than once. That is the proper way to handle things. We are human beings. What makes us unique is we have different perspectives and backgrounds. I was raised to just civilly talk to people and work out your problems. What we do not need is suing at the drop of the hat. Lawyers have been getting quite wealthy off of the inability of people in town to effectively deal with problems.
Voice of Reason February 14, 2013 at 02:22 PM
Well said Miles O. Your points on Ms. Zukauskas engaging Mr. Stomski are a point I tried to make in a post that wasn't "approved" (still haven't heard why that wasn't posted despite my request but I digress). I find that Mr. Stomski is now smeared across the Web and I've asked myself the question, "Does this incident warrant the response? Was the best course of action taken?". Also, as the following link states, "are some people taking things too far?". http://sexual-harassments.org/connecticut-alderman-calls-woman-attractive-sufficient-grounds-sexual-harassment-allegation/
Schmish February 14, 2013 at 04:23 PM
The context I am referring to is 1. He doesn't know her personally, 2. He made this comment during a public meeting and 3. Since this was off topic, it called unwanted attention to her. Basically, it just wasn't the time or place to make such a comment. And i take no issue with the door being closed, but I do take issue with insisting it even when she says she's uncomfortable with it. I don't think he even have any malicious intent with that at all. I would just hope that a person would say "Okay, but it might be difficult for us to hear one another". Getting angry, IF that indeed happened which we may never know, is just not an effective way to handle the situation. Honestly, he's probably a nice guy. I have no personal issues with him. He's just making some unfortunate choices. When you're a public figure, you HAVE to be very careful with everything you do or say. Stinks, but that's just how it is.
Sean M February 14, 2013 at 04:39 PM
Karen, I find no issue with any of this. I would add only one thing. This type of baseless accusations is the new standard of the Democrats nationally, statewide, and locally. Given Linda's clear association with them, as Woodbury First was basically a front group for the Democrats, her motives are very fair to call into question. I have seen this type of activity over and over again in politics. As I stated it comes right out of Rules for Radicals. Given my personal experiences with the DTC, a large chunk of the Woodbury First crowd, and having been around politics long enough, I believe this is another of the opposition's political attacks. The Democrat Town Committee in town has nothing of substance to offer. They complain about what the Republicans do while their people do the same things. I have witnessed first hand the way the opposition conducts itself. They know they have nothing of value to offer, so all they do is cause problems for everyone else. All this strife has been a recent phenomenon. There are serious issues to be dealt with in town and all these things do is distract from needed efforts and resources. If someone is so bothered by a comment like this that they need to take legal action, then they have a problem. It is not healthy to allow such things to bother oneself so much as to go that far. I think the amount of energy expended on just this post is significantly more than is warranted on this topic.
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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