At the Easton Board of Selectman meeting on Thursday, Feb. 2, Planning & Zoning Commission Chair Raymond Martin asked to appear in front of the town’s Board of Ethics to explain his acceptance of a guilty verdict to charges that he falsely reported a stolen car.
The charges stemmed from Martin’s Sept. 7, 2021 arrest by Stratford police for allegedly lying about an accident after hitting a parked car. Martin pleaded guilty on Jan. 31 in Bridgeport Superior Court under the Alford Doctrine, which means the defendant maintains his innocence but admits that the evidence presented would result in a guilty verdict should the case go to trial. The judge gave Martin a one-year suspended sentence followed by two years of conditional discharge.
Martin, whose five-year term on the P&Z expires on Jan. 2, 2024, said in a public comment at the Feb. 2 meeting that he would like to be given the opportunity to provide his account of his actions in relation to this conviction.
“The Board of Ethics is the perfect forum for me to give my side of the story so people can make an informed opinion,” said Martin. “I’m more than willing to put [the facts] forward for both this incident, any other prior incidents, criminal or otherwise.”
Martin’s prior criminal incidents include a conviction in 2017 for his admitted role in a steroid distribution ring. Federal authorities sentenced Martin, who was a member of Easton’s Police Commission at the time of his arrest in 2015, to three years of probation and ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine.
During public comments at the Feb. 2 meeting, Easton resident Paula Barker urged the board of selectmen to remove Martin from his position on the P&Z, especially given his multiple criminal incidents.
“I do think that repeated offenses or crimes and convictions are probably not the best look for the town of Easton,” said Barker. “It sets a precedent and opens up to legal action. It’s not appropriate for somebody who has been convicted of several crimes to be leading one of the important boards in our town.”
Several other Easton residents urged the board of selectmen to ask for Martin’s resignation, including June Logie, the treasurer of the local conservative group Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG), who is leading an email effort to encourage residents to file a formal ethics complaint against Martin.
“We are talking about falsifying documents, that is a pretty serious issue,” Logie commented at the Feb. 2 meeting.
Logie herself did not file the required campaign finance disclosure statements on behalf of the CRG in 2021 and failed to report expenditures properly, according to the State Elections Enforcement Commission’s Nov. 2, 2022 public session meeting.
Logie was also one of five plaintiffs who sought to prevent Martin and eight others from serving on the Easton Republican Town Committee after a Republican state committee invalidated the ERTC’s Jan. 4, 2022 caucus at which Logie put forth a slate that replaced Martin and many long-time members. Logie eventually lost the court case and Martin has since stepped down as the Easton Republican Town Committee Chairman and completely disaffiliated himself from the ERTC. In his public comments on Feb. 2, Martin emphatically “affirmed [his] disconnection with the Republican leadership in the town of Easton” due to political differences.
Whether the board of selectmen or the board of ethics would have the authority to remove Martin from his post after an ethics investigation has been completed falls into a “gray area,” according to Selectman Robert Lessler, who is also an attorney.
“There is a local ordinance that authorizes the Board of Selectmen to remove an appointed official from office,” said Lessler. “However, since Planning and Zoning is created by state law, and that state law has slightly different rules relating to removal from office as compared to our two local sources of law as described above, there is at least a bit of gray area here.”
Martin insists he has no intention to voluntarily resign from the planning and zoning commission.
“I’m doing too much good for the town,” Martin said. “I have people telling me to stay strong and where I am.”