STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE

Henrietta F. Payne, Complainant vs. Eugene Citrano, Respondent

Grievance Complaint #00-0052

DECISION

Pursuant to Practice Book ß2-35, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted a hearing at the Superior Court, 400 Grand Street, Waterbury, Connecticut on February 6, 2001. The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on July 21, 2000, and the probable cause determination filed by the Fairfield Judicial District Grievance Panel on October 5, 2000, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.15(b) and 8.1(2) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book Section 2-32(a)(1).

Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainant and to the Respondent on January 2, 2001 . At the hearing on February 6, 2001, the Complainant and the Respondent appeared and testified before this reviewing committee.

This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:

The Respondent represented the seller in a real estate transaction involving the Complainant buyer. At the February 26, 1999 real estate closing, the Respondent agreed to hold $300.00 in escrow for window repairs pending receipt from the Complainant of a written estimate from a licensed contractor. Subsequent to the closing, the Respondent wrote letters to the Complainantís counsel relative to the escrow. The Complainantís counsel did not advise the Respondent of compliance by the Complainant with the escrow terms.

The Respondent did not file an answer to the grievance complaint.

This reviewing committee also considered the following:

The Complainant claimed that she complied with the escrow requirement but the Respondent failed to release the escrow. The Respondent contended that there was delay by the Complainantís counsel in responding to his communication regarding the escrow. The Respondent claimed that he did not become aware of the termination of Complainantís counselís representation of the Complainant until over a year after the closing. The Respondent indicated that the escrow funds were held for his clients and he had no knowledge of compliance by the Complainant. The Respondent testified that he did not receive the grievance complaint until after the expiration of the response period.

This reviewing committee finds the following violation of the Rules of Professional
Conduct by clear and convincing evidence:

This reviewing committee concludes that the Respondentís conduct in connection with the $300.00 real estate closing escrow did not involve a breach of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The record lacks clear and convincing evidence to substantiate a finding of a violation of Rule 1.15(b) by the Respondent in connection with the real estate escrow. This reviewing committee notes that the Respondent was not notified by Complainantís counsel of compliance by the Complainant with the escrow requirement. We do conclude, however, that the Respondent failed to respond to the grievance without good cause in violation of Rule 8.1(2) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book ß2-32(a)(1). We do not find credible the Respondentís claim that the grievance complaint was received by the Respondent after the expiration of the response period. Since we conclude that the Respondent violated Rule 8.1(2) and Practice Book ß2-32(a)(1), we reprimand the Respondent.

 

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Attorney M. Katherine Webster-OíKeefe

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Attorney Frederick Krug

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Ms. Johanna Kimball