Bristol Council Censures Mayor For Second Time

For the second time in a little more than a year, the city council has censured Mayor Ken Cockayne, this time for alleged sexual harassment and dishonesty.

Five council members — including two Republicans running with Cockayne on the party slate this fall — voted to censure him after an executive session discussion Monday night.

The sixth member, Republican Jodi Zils-Gagne, recused herself because her dispute with Cockayne is at the heart of the case.

Republican Anthony D’Amato, who served as acting mayor for the session, introduced a resolution that passed unanimously. He said it was based on attorney Michael Rose report of his investigation into Cockayne’s actions.

“Having evaluated it, based on its detailed findings, we resolve to censure Mayor Kenneth B. Cockayne for violation of the city’s policy prohibiting sexual harassment and for dishonesty in responding to the inquiry,” D’Amato said.

The resolution also censures Cockayne for “retaliatory acts based on perceived political disloyalty,” and refers the matter to the ethics commission for further review.

The council did not elaborate, but said it would release a redacted version of the report to the public on Thursday.

Cockayne did not attend the meeting, and declined to comment late Monday night, saying he hasn’t seen the investigative report. Republican council members could not be reached after the meeting to determine if they are still endorsing his mayoral campaign against Democratic challenger Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.

Council member Calvin Brown, a Democrat and long-time critic of Cockayne, said after the meeting that the city needs a new mayor.

“I am appalled at the mayor’s reckless behavior,” said Brown, who is not seeking another term. “Once more, Ken Cockayne has brought shame to the city of Bristol. Luckily, the citizens can correct his bad behavior for him by voting him out of office once and for all come Nov. 7.”

The council censured Cockayne in September 2016 after concluding that he had retaliated against Noel Bates, an employee in the city attorney’s office. The council had hired Rose to look into that matter, and he reported that Cockayne had threatened Richard Lacey, a city attorney, and retaliated against Bates for filing a sexual harassment complaint against him.

Bates is still pursuing that matter in a federal lawsuit against Cockayne.

The current case involves a bitter dispute between Cockayne and Zils-Gagne, who are cousins. He has tried to dismiss it as family disagreement, but she has said it spilled over into city business. Her husband, Stephen Gagne, has been a critic of Cockayne.

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