Connect with us

Connecticut

CT chief public defender TaShun Bowden-Lewis placed on leave

Published

on

CT chief public defender TaShun Bowden-Lewis placed on leave


Connecticut’s Public Defender Services Commission on Friday placed Chief Public Defender TaShun Bowden-Lewis on paid administrative leave, following months of disputes with the oversight body and recent reports that she allegedly instructed a subordinate to access privileged email accounts belonging to people critical of her.

The commission announced its decision to place Bowden-Lewis on leave, pending an investigation, after a closed-door executive session meeting on Friday evening.

“The commission will complete the investigation as soon as reasonably possible, and, upon the conclusion of the investigation, which may involve allegations in addition to those identified in this letter, the chief public defender will have an opportunity to address the allegations investigated by the commission,” said Richard Palmer, a retired state Supreme Court justice and the chairperson of the commission.

According to a copy of a letter handed to Bowden-Lewis at the meeting and obtained by The Connecticut Mirror, the commission placed the chief public defender on leave due to allegations that she accessed the state email accounts of two senior division attorneys “without a legitimate basis for doing so and in retaliation against those two attorneys for criticizing you, disagreeing with you, and/or cooperating with the commission.”

Advertisement

The two attorneys were Deborah Del Prete Sullivan, the agency’s legal counsel, and Joseph Lopez, the division’s director of complex litigation.

It also alleges that Bowden-Lewis placed a division employee on paid administrative leave for “no valid reason” and issued a letter of reprimand to another employee for “no valid reason and in retaliation against that employee for disagreeing with you and cooperating with the Commission.”

The panel reversed Bowden-Lewis’ decisions to discipline the two employees — Greg Dion, the agency’s information technology director, who had been placed on administrative leave, and Sullivan, who was issued the reprimand letter.

The letter instructs Bowden-Lewis not to enter any division facilities or offices unless otherwise instructed by the panel, not to contact any clients or staff in the division, and to make herself available throughout the period of her administrative leave as required.

Bowden-Lewis left the meeting without publicly responding to the commission’s decision.

Advertisement

The discipline toward Bowden-Lewis, who made history two summers ago when she was appointed the first Black chief public defender, is the latest progression in a series of disputes between her and the commission.

Last year, the body took the rare step of issuing a letter of reprimand to Bowden-Lewis, claiming that she had failed to address plummeting morale, levied unfounded allegations of racial discrimination against agency personnel and not complied with directives from her higher-ups.

Before the reprimand letter, most members of the commission that appointed Bowden-Lewis had resigned. Emails from employees surfaced suggesting racism in the division. Some attorneys blamed her for what they described as a toxic work environment and inadequate responses to the needs of those in the courtroom. At public meetings, other lawyers questioned both her credibility and integrity.

In her first interview addressing the claims last summer, Bowden-Lewis said she remained committed to her three-prong vision to improve recruitment and retention to diversify staff, rebrand the division through community engagement and revitalize the agency to ensure workers feel valued.

As for her treatment by some in the division, notably the previous commission members who resigned, Bowden-Lewis said there were “some situations that did not follow precedent and did not meet what has been the standard.”

Advertisement

On Friday, the union representing public defenders issued a vote of no confidence in Bowden-Lewis’ leadership.

“While we have made concerted efforts over the past year to work with the Chief, the perpetual state of controversy and dysfunction at the highest levels has been an unwelcome distraction in serving the interests of our clients. It has harmed the public’s trust in the Division and contributed to low morale among employees,” the union said in a statement.

“We approve the Commission’s decision tonight of placing Attorney Bowden-Lewis on administrative leave,” the statement said. “We urge the Commission to provide Attorney Bowden-Lewis with the appropriate due process protections that all public defenders champion every day and, if there is just cause, remove her from her position as Chief so that the Division can refocus its efforts on our mission to provide the best possible legal defense to the people of Connecticut.”

Attorney John Day, who serves as the agency’s deputy chief public defender, will assume the role of chief pending the investigation.

This story was originally published by the Connecticut Mirror.

Advertisement





Source link

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Connecticut

An outdoor swim festival in Vermont … in the winter? These hardy CT swimmers are headed there this weekend

Published

on

An outdoor swim festival in Vermont … in the winter? These hardy CT swimmers are headed there this weekend


Jeff Ruben of Madison once swam in Antarctica. He was a tour guide on a ship with a Russian doctor who swam regularly so Ruben joined him one day. The water was minus-3 degrees.

“It’s not something you want to do for a long time,” said Ruben, 60. “It feels kind of like it’s burning you.”

So it’s no surprise that Ruben, who swims year-round at Hammonasset Beach in Madison, is joining a growing number of winter swimmers who will travel to the northernmost part of Vermont this weekend to compete in the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival at Lake Memphremagog, a 31-mile-long lake that straddles the border of Vermont and Canada.

The festival is in its 10th year and about 175 people will swim, including six from Connecticut.

Advertisement

The swimming “pool” is 25 meters long and cut out of ice. There are races from 25 meters to 200 meters and the competition starts Friday with a 25-meter “hat race,” in which swimmers try to outdo each other with creative headgear.

Two of Ruben’s friends went last year and urged him to sign up.

“It has a reputation of being a fun event,” Ruben said. “Not everybody wants to get in a swimming pool made out of ice, but I like swimming in the winter.”

The festival is the creation of Phil White, who lives on the lake in Newport, Vt. Years ago, he started an open water swimming competition in the summer and had an ice-skating festival in the winter. One winter day, he was out on the ice and some town workers were cutting blocks of ice for the winter carnival. He took a photo of the ice cutter and posted it on social media and wrote, “Anybody want to go swimming?”

“It was a joke,” White said this week.

Advertisement

Except people started to ask him if he was serious. Half-serious, he replied. He didn’t know how to cut a pool into the ice but thought he could figure it out. “I said, “I don’t know anything about winter swimming, and I wouldn’t undertake it without some experienced people helping me with safety issues and organization.’”

Swimmers offered to help, and the first event was a one-day affair. The town workers cut a hole in the ice for the pool on Friday but by Saturday morning, the water had frozen again, and the swimmers and volunteers and White spent the morning breaking up the ice with sledgehammers so the event could take place. There were about 40 swimmers that day.

Safety is important. There are volunteers who walk along the side of the pool with hooks, in case swimmers need to be pulled out. There are EMTs. There are people who help the swimmers disrobe before the event and help them get their clothes back on after and help them to the warming hut.

Martin McMahon of Simsbury, who became the first person from Connecticut to swim the English Channel in 1985, went to the festival in 2020, right before COVID shut everything down. He went back again in 2022.

Susie Nolan Loiselle of Old Saybrook and Martin McMahon of Simsbury at the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Susie Nolan Loiselle)

“You’re in for such a short time, your body can’t tell if you’re hot or cold,” McMahon said. “It’s bizarre.

Advertisement

“The first year I did it, I was so freaked out about being cold that I swam my events – it’s a two-lane pool – I would beat the person next to me, then I was climbing out fast, grabbing my robe and practically running to the (warming) hut. Then I watched and saw all the other swimmers, when they finished, they were stopping to shake the hand of the person next to them. I felt like a bad guy. So once I could mentally handle it, I’d hang out and wait.”

McMahon, who swam an Ice Mile (which is exactly what it sounds like, a mile in frigid winter water) once when he was younger, said there’s a procedure for warming up after getting out of the water.

“You have to climb out and just shiver and get some warm liquid into your body,” he said. “You don’t jump into a hot shower; you walk into a hut and just shiver until you stop shivering and then you go into the shower.

“It’s a blast. You’re with all these other crazy people from all over.”

It should be pointed out that wetsuits aren’t allowed. The water on Tuesday was 30.5 degrees. On Saturday, the outdoor temperature is expected to be 12 degrees (that’s the high) with winds in the 11-14 mph range.

Advertisement

It’s so cold, the water is trying to freeze so the swimmers are swimming through slush.

Amy Meskill, left, of Killington, gets ready to race at the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival in Vermont last winter. Meskill is going back this year. (Photo courtesy of Amy Meskill)
Festival founder Phil White starts swimmers as Amy Meskill, left, of Killington, gets ready at the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival in Vermont. (Photo courtesy of Amy Meskill)

“Like a frozen margarita,” said Ruben, laughing.

“We have to stir it during the swimming to keep it from icing over,” White said.

There is a bubbler going when the swimming is over for the day to keep the water from freezing.

The event gained popularity post-COVID when pools were closed, and swimmers were forced to swim outside if they wanted to swim at all. Some became outdoor converts.

Susie Nolan Loiselle of Old Saybrook, who swam at the event in 2020, was a winter sailor before she became a winter swimmer.

Advertisement

“It was the next logical step for me because I do frostbite sailing,” said Loiselle, 59. “We break the ice and sail around in little boats and race other clubs.

“I was already doing something in the cold. You capsize a few times and you’re like, ‘This isn’t so bad.’”

Loiselle has been in Florida for the winter, but she has been immersing herself in a tub of ice water daily to get ready for the event. The first time she competed, the air temperature was 14 degrees with a negative wind chill, and the water was about 30 degrees.

“They have to skim out the ice chunks that are forming,” she said.

Loiselle is on the board of the International Ice Swimming Association (IISA). She competed in the first national winter swimming championships earlier this winter in Virginia, where 45 competitors swam in a pool outdoors.

Advertisement

That was more serious; this weekend is more about fun. She is ready for the hat race; her first time she fashioned a Ken and Barbie pool hat.

“I froze Ken and Barbie into the pool and made ice cubes,” she said. “I got there and saw people had smoking paper mâché dragons … mine was lame in comparison.”

The hat contest serves as a warmup for the event.

“The first event should be head above the water so people could get used to the cold,” White said.  “Getting your head down in the water is a whole different experience.

“We’re trying to project this as, as intimidating as this might be, it’s very doable. I think an awful lot of people are looking to challenge themselves, not against others, but against themselves. This is something we’ve conveyed is safe – we take safety really seriously, but at the same time we have fun with the challenge of it all and people can see, ‘Oh, other people are doing it. I’m going to try it.’

Advertisement

“Then they get hooked because the endorphin release after they warm up is huge.”

Amy Meskill of Killingworth was a swimmer in high school and college and started swimming in the winter in 2021. She went to the festival last year and is going back this weekend.

“It’s mentally challenging to get out there and train on days it’s windy and below freezing,” said Meskill, 32, who trains at Hammonasset. “But we go every weekend pretty much to the beach and swim to stay acclimated to the water.

“My husband thinks I’m a little crazy.”



Source link

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Connecticut

Monroe Man Scores Big With Winning Lottery Scratch-Off

Published

on

Monroe Man Scores Big With Winning Lottery Scratch-Off


MONROE, CT — A Monroe business sold a winning lottery ticket to a Monroe man.

On Feb. 16, the resident, identified as only “Timothy M” by the Connecticut State Lottery, played 200X on a ticket he bought at the Cumberland Farms located at 455 Main Street, which paid out $10,000.



Source link

Continue Reading

Connecticut

Connecticut’s Parent Cabinet seek applicants

Published

on

Connecticut’s Parent Cabinet seek applicants


The state’s Parent Cabinet, part of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, says it has member positions available.

Officials said the advisory group gives a greater voice and ability in shaping laws and policies that impact young children and families.

A total of 15 members serve on the board and a term is 2 1/2 years.

Advertisement

Officials said the member positions are compensated.

For more information on the Parent Cabinet and to apply click [ctoec.org/parent-cabinet]here.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending