GROTON – The head of city-owned Groton Utilities, which serves thousands of customers in southeastern Connecticut, has been placed on indefinite administrative leave pending an investigation, according to sources at the utility with direct knowledge of the matter.
Ronald Gaudet, an Old Lyme resident and former Navy officer, Pfizer engineer and director of facilities at UConn, has not been seen for more than a week at the utility he has led since 2015, these sources say, but the nature of the investigation was unclear Friday.
Attempts to reach Gaudet at his office today were directed to the office of Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick, who with Gaudet serves on the Groton Utilities Commission and on the board of directors of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC), which includes Groton and seven other municipal-owned utilities in the state.
“The official answer from the Mayor’s office is that this is a personnel matter and we’re not going to discuss it,” Hedrick said. “It is a business decision.”
Asked if Gaudet was at work today and, if not, who was running the utility, Hedrick said: “I’m not going to get into it.”
The utility’s approximately 200 employees have not been notified of a change in Gaudet’s status, the sources say.
“We should have some direction on who’s in charge until there’s a decision,” said one worker, who was told last week that Gaudet was unavailable for a scheduled meeting due to a pending investigation.
“We’re in the dark and the rumor mill is rampant,” said another worker. “There’s no official anything from the city, which is odd.”
Groton Utilities, which also runs Bozrah Light & Power, provides electric, water and sewer services to approximately 15,000 residential and commercial customers, including Electric Boat and Pfizer. It realizes total revenues of about $70 million a year.
In 2017, Gaudet was found in violation of Groton’s municipal code of ethics stemming from his attendance at a CMEEC-funded junket to the 2016 Kentucky Derby, which led to federal indictments against several other attendees who are scheduled to go on trial in November.
Five former CMEEC officials were charged with conspiracy and theft in the matter.
The energy cooperative, based in Norwich, had hosted the “strategic retreats” for board members, municipal officials and guests from 2013 through 2016 at a cost of more than $1 million.
A planned 2017 trip was canceled after details of the previous junkets and their cost became public.