RTM OKs Holland Hill panel appointees after Republicans defect
Updated 9:30 am, Tuesday, March 1, 2016
FAIRFIELD — Three Republican members of the Representative Town Meeting crossed party lines Monday to approve appointment of two town employees to the Holland Hill Building Committee.
Republicans Keith Varian, District 1; Timothy Lynch, District 2, and Alex Durrell, District 3, joined Democrats in appointing Department of Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo and Tom Dubroksy, the first selectman’s chief of staff, to the building committee in a 21-16 vote. Josh Garskof, D-5, voted with the GOP.
The project calls for renovating and adding five classrooms to the Meadowcroft Road elementary school.
First Selectman Michael Tetreau had initially proposed appointing committees members who could meet during the day at the outset of the group’s work. That was suggested to get the project moving forward and to have two portable classrooms in place by the start of the new school year. The committee’s membership would likely expanded over the course of the project.
Those who objected to appointment of Michelangelo and Dubrosky said it was not because they didn’t feel they couldn’t do the job — in fact, while listing their objections, they praised both men’s abilities.
For Peter Ambrose, R-1, he opposed the appointments because of the town charter, which he said does not allow appointment of a town officer to a board or commission. "I’m very fond of the competency of both Joe Michelangelo and To Dubrosky," Ambrose said, "but I think the law is the law. I think we’re bending the law and I don’t think we should do that."
Town Attorney Stanton Lesser said the charter section cited by Ambrose specifically states that appointments of town officers cannot be made to permanent committees. Building committees are temporary in nature, and are disbanded once the project has been completed. "There is no prohibition," Lesser said
Ed Bateson, R-1, worried the men’s appointment would create a potential conflict of interest. Bateson said the DPW does in-kind work for town building projects. What, he asked, would happen if the committee were unhappy with that work, and Michelangelo was a member of the committee? "It would affect my way of thinking," he said.
Tetreau said the RTM’s role is to review and approve, and can do so without cause or a reason. "If you’re not comfortable, it’s certainly within your right not to support this," he told the legislative body.
RTM Moderator Pam Iacono, R-8, temporarily turned over her gavel to her assistant to voice her opinion on the resolution. "I think they’re both fine, upstanding citizens who have both given a lot to this town," Iacono said. But, she said she believes there is a potential for a conflict, particularly for Michelangelo.
In addition, Iacono said , the town has three departments without department heads — the human resources and purchasing directors recently retired, and the IT department director’s post has been vacant since last year. She said she has a hard time accepting that town employees would volunteer on a building committee when they are supposed to be working for the town.
Tetreau said both men "work well over 40 hours" each week, and would make up any time spent with the building committee. He also said that after the initial start-up, the committee would shift its meetings to the evening.
"We have two qualified and willing volunteers," Phil Pires, D-4, said, "both with a connection to the Holland Hill community."