First Selectman Ken Kellogg announced the appointment of Francis Lieto as town attorney and Lieto resigned from his position as Town Council chairman to take on his new role.
“With the untimely passing of Jeremy Hayden, the town’s legal affairs are at a critical crossroads,” Kellogg said in a press release Thursday. “We require an attorney who lives in town, with a deep understanding of current matters, without the benefit of any transition period, and who can step in and have an immediate impact.”
On Oct. 29, Hayden, a married father of one, died suddenly at age 41. He was Monroe’s town attorney for nearly two years.
Kellogg said the Town Charter requires that the town attorney be a resident of Monroe. Lieto is a 30-year-town-resident with a long history of volunteerism. He has served for nine years on Town Council and was chairman since 2015. Prior to that he has served in various appointed positions, including on the Parks & Recreation and Economic Development commissions.
A Town Charter provision states no member of Town Council may serve in a for-profit capacity during their term and for one year thereafter. There is also a conflicts of interest provision in the Code of Ethics, so Kellogg sought an independent legal opinion from the law firm of Cohen & Wolf, which confirmed that the appointment of Lieto, upon his resignation from Town Council, would not violate either provision.
“However, in the spirit of doing what’s right for the town, Frank has agreed to provide his first year of service as Town Attorney at no charge,” said Kellogg. “This is a remarkable gesture in support of our community and further emphasizes Attorney Lieto’s dedication to our town.”
Kellogg said Lieto also submitted a request for an opinion from the Board of Ethics, which voted unanimously to release him from any potential concerns regarding the specific section of its code.
In his resignation letter submitted to the town clerk Wednesday, Lieto said, “it is with great emotion that I submit my resignation from the Town Council effective immediately … without hesitation, I am proud to state that above all of my many experiences here in Monroe, my public service, including my years as a member of Town Council, has been most fulfilling.”
On Thursday, Lieto expressed his gratitude to his colleagues on the Town Council, who unanimously voted for him to be chairman the last two terms, and to the town’s electorate, who showed their trust in Lieto by making him the second highest vote getter in the last election by only a few votes. Fellow Republican and long time council member, Enid Lipeles had the highest total.
“I enjoyed being on Town Council as chairman,” Lieto said in a telephone interview. “We accomplished a lot. I’m proud of my good track record of 99 percent of votes being unanimous out of the hundreds of votes and motions. I take pride in the fact that we’ve done a really good job of drilling down issues before making decisions.”
The town now must fill Lieto’s vacancy on the council, whose members will appoint a new a chairman. Sean O’Rourke currently serves as vice chairman.
“I have full confidence in the current council and I look forward to working with them in a different capacity,” Lieto said.
Lieto, a married father of three, is a member of the law firm of Goldman, Gruder & Woods, LLC. He said he spent a lot of time contemplating his decision to accept the role of town attorney with his family and business partners.
“I feel this is the best decision for the town in light of Attorney Hayden’s unexpected passing,” Lieto said. “He and I worked frequently together with Ken and I feel my knowledge and experience will help the town move forward most efficiently.”