Fairfield RTM parties clash over fill pile oversight study
FAIRFIELD — Both caucuses of the RTM are proposing studies of how the town got into the messy fill pile situation.
But they have different ideas of how, and by whom, that study should be done.
On Tuesday, the Democratic RTM majority, in cooperation with First Selectman Mike Tetreau, announced a proposed civilian-led commission to review town procedures. The same day, the Republican minority proposed hiring an outside contractor to analyze the situation.
The use of contaminated fill has dominated town politics since two Publics Works employees were arrested on dumping and bribery charges in connection with the Julian-managed fill pile. When reports surfaced of potential contamination in Gould Manor Park’s sidewalk, the town began testing sites that used the pile’s fill on projects between 2013 and 2016.
The joint proposal by RTM Democrats and Tetreau aims to establish an appointed committee of residents to analyze how and why the pile was mismanaged.
Democrats say this committee would study the history of the pile, including the bidding and contracting process, relations with Public Works employees and environmental impacts at the site. It would also review general town procedures regarding purchasing and contracting, as well as ethics.
The proposal suggests that the commission of Fairfield residents, appointed by the Board of Selectmen, be comprised of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.
“This isn’t about political affiliation. It’s about our schools, our children, our safety and security,” Tetreau said.
RTM Republicans, meanwhile, wants an outside firm to analyze the fill pile matter.
With unanimous support from its 14 members, the Republican caucus filed paperwork with the town on Tuesday to hold a special meeting of the RTM to discuss this proposal.
Republicans are calling for the Board of Selectmen to hire an outside independent firm to conduct a top-to-bottom analysis of the procedures of the Town Charter and how they were followed throughout the fill pile situation.
In response to the opposite party’s proposal, both caucus leaders said they view their own proposal as better suited to addressing the issue across party lines.
Democratic Majority Leader Karen Wackerman said placing oversight in the hands of a civilian committee is key to keeping the issue non-partisan.
“I think it’s crucial to make this a nonpolitical committee,” Wackerman said. “If it stays within the purview of the Board of Selectmen, as the Republican caucus has suggested, it will continue to be used for political purposes rather than do the good work for the town that our caucus hopes to see.”
Republican Minority Leader Pamela Iacono, however, said her caucus’ proposal is superior in eliminating party politics through calling in an outside source.
“The Republican Caucus sees the fill pile debacle as a non-partisan issue,” Iacono said. “We decided to petition for a special meeting so that recommendations for oversight come out of a bi-partisan conversation of the entire RTM, rather than a one-party caucus press statement. Our agenda item allows for a discussion on both sides of the aisle and affords the public an opportunity to speak on the matter before any votes are taken.”
Reached for comment, Tetreau said he found the Republican proposal more confrontational than his party’s, which he said is more collaborative in nature.
“I think the Democrat proposal is more responsive to the community,” Tetreau added.
According to the Town Charter, the RTM’s moderator must call a special meeting within 10 days of a filed petition.