Fairfield police say town official took bribes to allow toxic dumping
FAIRFIELD - The town’s superintendent of public works is accused by police of accepting bribes and favors to allow a local construction company to dump truckloads of demolition material containing high levels of PCBs and lead onto property adjacent to the public works garage.
Fairfield has been locked in a legal battle with Julian Enterprises since May 2017, when the town sued to force the company to pay the town $3 million in damages.
But recently police raided the office of Julian Enterprises on Meadow Street in Fairfield, hauling away boxes of records. Police also obtained records from the Fairfield County Bank in Ridgefield.
“These are simply allegations that haven’t been proven in court, and my client is confident they will be exonerated at trial,” said Julian’s lawyer, Thomas Cotter.
Scott Bartlett, the town’s superintendent of public works, who has not been charged, did not return calls for comment. First Selectman Michael Tetreau confirmed that Bartlett is still on the job and said there is an ongoing investigation into the allegations.
“These affiants have probable cause to believe that evidence of a conspiracy between Scott Bartlett and Julian Development personnel to commit environmental crimes as well as larcenies is located in the business offices of Julian Development AKA Julian Enterprises,” states the search warrant application for the company’s office that was obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media.
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“Statements of town employees suggest that Bartlett was influenced by Julian Management through benefits provided him and/or his son, who is an employee of Julian Development and support the belief that Julian Development influenced Scott Bartlett by providing him with benefits,” the application states. “Bartlett allowed Julian Development to accept prohibited/contaminated materials at the Fairfield facility, making the operation of the facility highly profitable for Julian Development.”
The investigation is now in the hands of the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.
The Fairfield Public Works Department generates several tons of material every year from the removal of old road surfaces and sidewalks, and from sewer and site construction. The town created a dump site for this material on town property on Richard White Way, aiming to convert the refuse into material that could be reused or sold for fill.
In 2013, Julian Enterprises was awarded the bid to operate the processing facility with the goal of reducing the volume of material at the site. Julian would rent the site from the town for $9,000 a year, and while they had to accept material from the town at the site for free, they could charge private contractors a dumping fee to process material.
According to the contract, Julian was prohibited from accepting hazardous or contaminated materials at the site.
However, by 2016, the volume of material at the site had in fact increased instead of being reduced. In addition, there were numerous complaints of increased truck traffic through the center of town. This prompted the town to hire Cindy Knight, president of Logical Environmental Solutions, to investigate the site.
On Nov. 29, 2016, according to court documents, Knight was at the processing facility shortly before 7 a.m., when she saw three Julian dump trucks unload piles of a gray-brown granular material at the extreme back of the site. She took samples of the material, which were tested and found to contain levels of PCBs six times greater than the state allowable level and lead at double the concentration considered hazardous.
The site was immediately shut down.
Warrant applications state that the documentation supplied by Julian Enterprises to the town said the tested material was part of a series of 20 truckloads that had been hauled from the construction site of the Land Rover/Jaguar dealership on Commerce Drive. The documents from Julian stated that the material was all disposable fill, rock and asphalt, the warrant affidavits state.
Based on this information, in July 2017, then-Police Chief Gary MacNamara assigned detectives Frederick Hine and Michael Clark to begin a criminal investigation.
Shortly thereafter, Hine interviewed Bartlett, who conceded, according to the warrant application, that the volume of unprocessed material at the site was increasing, contrary to the contract.
But Bartlett contended that he allowed Julian to continue operating it because he didn’t believe the volume reduction expectation was attainable and because Julian provided, in Bartlett’s estimation, a $500,000 to $700,000 savings to the town. Bartlett told Hine he did not see any trucks that he suspected were carrying hazardous materials into the site, the warrant application states.
The application states that Bartlett’s son, Steven Bartlett, is employed by Julian, which was not reported by the company.
Hine interviewed four town employees who stated that Julian personnel were allowing hazardous material into the processing site, according to the warrant application.
The application states that the employees told Hine that they complained to Bartlett, but he told them, “I don’t care what they bring in …as long as they take it out.”
A former truck driver for Julian Development told Hine that the company had been accepting material containing asbestos at the processing site.
“He stated Scott Bartlett had a ‘fishy relationship’ with the Julians and that the Julians gave Scott Bartlett’s son a job and they ‘gave the kid whatever he wanted,’’’ the affidavit states.
During a company Christmas party, the former employee told Hine, he saw Jason Julian fold an envelope and put it in Scott Bartlett’s pocket while he shook Bartlett’s hand, the affidavit states.
The company’s Facebook page showed photographs of Bartlett at the company’s Christmas Party two days after it was discovered that Julian trucks had dumped hazardous materials at the processing site.
Tetreau said the processing site was cleaned up about a year ago at a cost to the town of $300,000.
“We are suing Julian to get them to pay for that,” he said. In the meantime, Tetreau said, town workers removed half the dirt on the site and, after ensuring it was clean of contaminants, used it to landscape the site.
“So now, from a neighbor’s standpoint, they are looking at a landscaped berm,” Tetreau said.