Finance board wants answers on fill pile, Julian lawsuits

FAIRFIELD — Board of Finance members were caught off guard when they read in a recent issue of the Citizen that the town and Julian Enterprises would be withdrawing their lawsuits in a lengthy fill pile dispute.

“That was new information,” Board of Finance Chairman Tom Flynn said at the Nov. 27 meeting. “We’re getting a lot of questions from people in the public and we were caught very flat-footed.”

The town had filed a civil lawsuit against Julian in May 2017 and sought $3 million in damages, claiming the company did not fulfill the terms of a three-year contract that called for the reduction of a pile of road construction debris. Julian Enterprises filed its own lawsuit against the town claiming defamation.

Court documents filed Nov. 15 from the town and the company’s counter lawsuit show the parties have agreed to withdraw their claims as they enter into an arbitration agreement.

Finance board member James Walsh requested First Selectman Mike Tetreau and town attorney Stanton Lesser be present at the board’s Dec. 4 meeting to provide answers on the agreement.

On Tuesday, however, only Tetreau was present.

“We asked for both Tetreau and Lesser,” Flynn said. “That’s a mistake. I ask that we delay this item and I’d like for Mr. Lesser to be present.”

Flynn and other board members raised a list of concerns about the withdrawal of the lawsuits, including why both parties chose to go into arbitration and what stage the process was in.

“What was the basis for going into binding arbitration? How was the decision reached? Who made the decision? Why is this the right decision? What does it mean for the town? What are the processes and is it public or private?” Flynn asked as he went through questions he wanted to address.

Another finance board member asked if Tetreau could answer questions from the board, but Flynn responded that he wanted the town attorney to be there in order for all parties to be on the same page.

“I understood it to be a first selectman decision,” Robert Mayer, the town’s chief fiscal officer said when asked about the town attorney’s absence. “Sorry I misunderstood.”

Lesser, in an email Wednesday afternoon, said he was not at the meeting Tuesday night “because no one informed me that my presence was requested.”

“With regards to updates, it is my practice not to comment on pending litigation regarding any of my clients,” Lesser said.

The town attorney did not respond to comment on whether the arbitration process would be public or private.

Shortly after the finance meeting concluded Tuesday evening, Tetreau said it was the town’s policy to not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

The board concluded their meeting by asking that Tetreau and Lesser be present at their Jan. 8 meeting.

The Board of Finance isn’t the only town body asking for an update. Selectman Ed Bateson inquired about the withdrawed lawsuits at the Board of Selectmen meeting Wednesday.

“I really think we need to get an update on what happened,” Bateson said.