By Joe Wojtas
STONINGTON — During a four-month period at the end of 2012, then-First Selectman Ed Haberek used his town-issued Blackberry phone to send and receive hundreds of sexually explicit text messages and photos with numerous women.
Town policy restricts the use of town-issued phones to official Stonington business, yet almost all the 18,600 messages during the period were of a private nature and many involved Haberek’s relationships with the women.
Much of the texting came during Town Hall working hours, while he was in meetings and at events and even during two phone calls with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, one of which was to discuss the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
Haberek, who was married at the time and did not get divorced until early in 2015, would often initiate the sexting, reaching out to as many as four or five women at the same time and then sometimes juggling their responses and requests for pictures with town business.
He used the phone to set up meetings with them at local gyms, parking lots, bars, stores, a laundromat and St. Pius X Church in Westerly.
In a June e-mail response to questions from The Day about the texts, Haberek said the texts are not public documents even though the state Freedom of Information Commission ruled in April that the town had to release them to The Day.
Asked why he used the phone to send and receive thousands of personal messages when the policy in effect at the time said the phones were to conduct town business, Haberek wrote, “As an individual who was available and needed to all day and night I carried one phone and was advised when I started that I did not need two phone (personal & town) so I can be contacted in emergencies. It is customary at the Town (even with such written policy which is at discretion and any breach in policy is determined by First Selectman) to use phones for personal use. All staff have used them for this.”
He then listed employees who he said have used phones for personal use. “In addition, staff have been comfortable utilizing there computers at town hall to search outside sites including yours, other newspapers, shopping sites and others that we don’t continuously track,” he wrote.
Asked later about why his texts involved sexually graphic conversations and requests for photos during Town Hall operating hours and during meetings to conduct town business, Haberek repeated in an e-mail, “It is customary at the Town (even with such written policy which is at discretion and any breach in policy is determined by First Selectman) to use phones for personal use. All staff have used them for this.”
Haberek has not been accused of breaking any laws in connection with his texting.
In some of the text messages Haberek agreed to “put pressure” on then-tax assessor Gisela Harma on behalf of a Pawcatuck woman who owed back taxes and with whom he had exchanged thousands of texts and pictures in 2012, many of them sexually explicit. Haberek and the woman frequently texted about the sex they were going to have with each other.
The Day has chosen not to print the wording of many of the texts because of their graphic sexual content and is not identifying the private citizens who texted with the first selectman. Any photos sent between Haberek and others were not a part of the Freedom of Information request and were not included in the material examined by The Day.
On many days Haberek would send and receive 200 to 300 texts, most of a personal nature.
For example, on Sept. 11, 2012, Haberek sent and received 282 texts, 219 of which came between 8:30 a.m., when Town Hall opened, and 5:26 p.m., when he told a woman he was leaving the office. Approximately 70 texts involved sexually graphic language.
During a 44-minute period around 1 p.m. on Oct. 18, not long after his calendar shows he had a meeting with town labor attorney Mike Satti, Haberek exchanged 91 texts with three women. While he and one woman texted back and forth in an unsuccessful attempt to set up a last-minute lunchtime date, he was having sexual discussions with two other women, all while he was telling one of the women that he was “with staff at moment.”
At an Oct. 20, 2012, Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Haberek texted a woman he saw in the audience at the Mystic Middle School cafeteria.
“Wow, see-through shirt,” he texted her.
“U look hot,” he texted later as he bounced between the woman’s sexually explicit texts and his messages to a town official about water pressure for a subdivision under discussion at the meeting.
In the early afternoon of Oct. 15, 2012, a Texas woman texted Haberek. She noted that he seemed preoccupied and asked if he was in a meeting.
Haberek said he was and asked her to send him “a pic” of herself.
She did, and a minute later he responded with three quick texts over the next 39 seconds:
“Wish I could see you ;)”
When the woman mentioned she was thinking of him while performing a sexual act, Haberek texted her to “take a picture let me see.”
The woman responded “Is it OK me texting you.”
In rapid-fire messages he texted back:
“Text me a pic.”
Town policy on personal use
In his June 3 e-mail to The Day, Haberek rejected the idea that the texts are public documents, saying the only reason they were released was that the town did not review and redact them during the one-year period from the time The Day requested them to the date the commission held its hearing.
Town Attorney Thomas Londregan and Director of Administrative Services Vincent Pacileo say the reason the review was not done was because Haberek, who resigned in December 2014 to take a job in Seattle, had refused to review them while in office. Town officials wanted Haberek to point out to them which texts he determined were private. He told them he would not do so.
Haberek further said the texts are not public because they do not relate to “the conduct of the public’s business,” a position The Day disagreed with in its arguments before the commission.
The town policy governing the use of phones and computers in effect during 2012 warned that “employees may not expect or assert a right of privacy in connection with any town-owned assets.”
“E-mail and Internet access is provided for Town of Stonington business only; use for informal and/or personal purposes is permissible only within reasonable limits,” states the policy. “All email Internet records are considered Town records and should be transmitted only to individuals who have a business need to receive them. Those who have personal confidential matters to communicate should, to assure privacy, not use Town computers or equipment, including fax machines.”
The policy also prohibits the use of phones and computers for any “improper purpose,” which is defined to include “pornography,” “personal use of any equipment that interferes with an employee’s productivity and job performance” and “any other use of Town computers or other equipment that is not related to Town of Stonington business.”
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, in which Haberek was praised by residents for using social media to keep them informed, he sexted various women.
A few minutes after the first selectman was informed that the head of Northeast Utilities would be visiting the town in less than two hours, a woman texted him with a graphic description of how she would perform oral sex on him.
“Let’s do it,” he responded.
While on a call with Gov. Malloy in the aftermath of the storm, he texted the woman in Texas about visiting her.
FOI orders release
The state Freedom of Information Commission ruled in April this year that the town had to turn over some of Haberek’s 2011 and 2012 text messages and e-mails to The Day, which had filed an appeal after Haberek and the town refused to release them in early 2014, when he was still in office. The town spent $8,025 in legal fees trying to block the release of the texts.
After Haberek left office but before the FOIC hearing, the town released 11,600 of Haberek’s texts from January through August 2012. The town had redacted, or blacked out, almost all of those texts, saying they were “private” in nature.
The town had not reviewed the remaining four months of texts by the time the commission held its hearing and rendered its decision. The commission ordered the town to release those four months of texts, saying the town could not prove the 18,600 texts were “not public records” or were exempt from disclosure without first reviewing them and offering evidence that they were private. It also ordered the release of the phone numbers attached to the 11,600 redacted texts.
Many of the redacted private texts in the first eight months of 2012 came from the same phone numbers that appeared in the unredacted records from the last four months of that year and contained conversations of a sexual nature.
The texts revealed numerous instances in which Haberek pleaded with women to send him “pics” of themselves and then commented on them.
The texting of pictures came two years after Pawcatuck resident Tracy Swain sued the town and Haberek, alleging that he sent her sexually graphic photos of himself from his Town Hall office using his town Blackberry. Haberek initially denied the allegation, but in a sworn deposition testified that he sent her pornographic photos of another man, using his home computer, and asked her to send him photos as well.
Swain’s suit is pending in state Superior Court in New London. Under Haberek’s instruction, the town labor attorney was hired to block Swain’s attempt to get Haberek’s cellphone records and was paid $2,411. In addition, the town’s insurance company has spent almost $14,000 defending the case. The town also expended several thousand dollars in legal fees last year in an unsuccessful attempt to block the release of a complaint by a woman who said Haberek harassed her when she worked for the town Human Services Department.