Milford aldermen appoint Ward Willis to city's Planning and Zoning Board
MILFORD — Despite vehement opposition from one prominent Republican, former GOP Alderman Ward Willis was unanimously approved by the Board of Aldermen as an appointee to the Planning and Zoning Board Monday night.
Last month, the Democratic controlled board postponed a vote on Willis’ appointment because former Republican Town Chairman Jack Fowler resurrected Willis’ 2006 arrest for placing harassing phone calls to a city educator, and according to a police report, one of the phone calls placed by Willis occurred when he was an alderman.
Willis, who unsuccessfully ran for the Board of Aldermen in November, has said the charges were dismissed after he agreed to accelerated rehabilitation, which is a special form of probation offered to first-time offenders accused of a non-serious crime. Willis has said there have been no other incidents.
During Monday’s aldermenic meeting, Fowler again spoke. Fowler said 2nd District Republicans continue to support Willis because he didn’t seek a recount after falling seven votes short for a seat on the Board of Aldermen.
Fowler said Willis does not deserve the position because he “crank calls and frightens a teacher.” Additionally, Fowler said he was concerned Willis asked his middle school daughters to be his Facebook friends.
“Is that the kind of person we want?” Fowler asked.
Fowler said residents need someone who is worthy of public office.
Willis told the aldermen he was upfront about his previous arrest during the nominating process and no one expressed any concerns.
Concerning that arrest, Willis said “everything that happened in the past is expunged. There was no admission of guilt.”
“It’s a class C misdemeanor. It’s the lowest; it’s one step above a motor vehicle infraction,” Willis said.
Willis, who has 1,800 Facebook friends, said he has no recollection of ever friend requesting Fowler’s daughters on Facebook.
Several former Republican aldermen who served with Willis defended him Monday.
Former Chairman Thomas Beirne Jr. blasted Fowler, saying, “shame on” him for his comments against Willis. Beirne said Willis would be an asset to any board he serves on.
Former Alderwoman Judy Toohey said everyone deserves a second chance, and Willis has matured since the 2006 arrest.
“When we preach about forgiveness and we have none then that is a problem,” Toohey said.
Former aldermanic Majority Leader Barbara Genovese said she took issue with Fowler’s remarks.
“I served with Ward Willis. He is an honest gentleman,” Genovese said.
There is a Republican vacancy on the PZB because former member Robert Dickman Jr. was elected to the Board of Aldermen. Willis is scheduled to take his place.