Editorial / Long, public-sector ride is over
Published 5:20 pm, Thursday, January 5, 2012
The Roller Coaster Data Base maintains a remarkable volume of information about more than 3,700 roller coasters around the globe.
The tallest -- 456 feet -- is at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.
The fastest -- 149.1 mph -- is at a park appropriately called Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates.
The longest -- 1.54 miles of track -- is at Nagashima Spa Land in Japan.
How does the one Ken Flatto has been on over the past nine months compare?
Only he could say. But the fortunes of the former Fairfield first selectman certainly have taken their high-speed ups and downs, their twists and turns and, we suspect, induced a few shrieks along the way.
In announcing this week that he had resigned a state job after only eight months to go to work for the Jewish Home for the Elderly back in Fairfield, Flatto ended his long ride as a public official.
But the hot seat he's been on in his hometown only grew hotter this week when a year-old letter surfaced that falsely claimed town boards had approved changes to key Metro Center train station agreements.
The long-serving steward of a thriving community, Flatto last spring was beckoned to the state capitol by a newly seated governor to be executive director of the influential state Division of Special Revenue, with control over the state lottery and gaming.
It was a step up to a bigger political stage, even if he took a tiny pay cut.
But the job quickly lost some of its luster. In a spate of cost-cutting consolidation by the governor who appointed him, Flatto's division was targeted for abolishment and his job would be absorbed into the Department of Consumer Protection on July 1.
Just four days before that took effect, Flatto's interim successor in Fairfield stunned the community, announcing the town faced millions of dollars in cost overruns on the new Metro Center train station.
Flatto, who had taken great pride in -- and credit for -- steering the project to near completion, quickly was vilified for negotiating amendments to deals putting the town on the hook for the overruns. Critics also faulted him for a lack of project oversight and for not knowing a financial bomb was about to explode.
Called before various town bodies to explain his actions, Flatto's darkest moment seemed to have come in early October when an independent legal review concluded he did not have authority to make the changes he did in agreements with the state and the project's private developer.
Yet things grew even darker this week when one of the lawyers who conducted the legal review produced a copy of a letter sent by the town attorney to state officials falsely claiming that Flatto had received approval for the changes from the Representative Town Meeting.
Flatto disagreed with the opinion, and through the entire train-station saga has steadfastly maintained he did nothing wrong.
With the time he spent defending himself in Fairfield, however, one wondered how Flatto could be digging into a new job 60 miles north of the Town Hall Green.
In his "State of the Town" address at Osborn Hills School 49 weeks ago, the then-first selectman declared "tremendous things are happening" on the economic development front, citing the new train station that would open later in the year and the new Whole Foods Market under construction not far from it. He called downtown "the dining and arts capital of coastal Connecticut."
At the same time, Flatto was dropping little hints that he might not finish his term, that he was weighing other opportunities. But what were they? Public sector? Private? Both? His coy smile said, "That's for me to know and for you to find out."
Ken Flatto had been the town's chief executive for 12 of the previous 14 years, and one sometimes wondered if really he wanted to leave at all. He was appointed to the state job March 22. He was going to leave in the first selectman's office in April but postponed his departure several times -- until May, finally.
Little did he know then that the coaster car that was still climbing was going to take a steep plunge.
As many a roller-coaster rider will attest, an upset stomach and dizziness can linger after the ride ends.