Independent counsel role on Metro report questioned by RTM

The Representative Town Meeting on Monday heard a report on the legal review on the former first selectman's role in approving contract revisions for the Fairfield Metro train station that left town responsible for $7.5 million in construction cost overruns.

But many RTM members' questions focused on the independent counsels hired to conduct the review, and not the substance of the report.

Both Assistant Majority Leader Edward Bateson, R-3, and Selectman James Walsh pressed to see the drafts of the report written by Richard Vitarelli, the lawyer whose firm. McCarter & English, was hired by the town to review the approval process and the legality of amended agreements signed by then-First Selectman Kenneth Flatto last year.

"This report is something we asked for," Bateson said. "I want the first version of that report. I think we're entitled to it. I don't want it glazed over by a first selectman's position or a Board of Selectmen position or a Board of Finance position."

Interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the report, which concluded Flatto did not have authorization under the town charter to amend the agreements on his own, was initiated by the Board of Selectmen.

"I don't want to see it through your eyes," Bateson said, or with any possible edits by Tetreau. "I want to see it unedited."

"Personally, I didn't make any changes to it," Tetreau said, and Vitarelli stated several times that the conclusions reached by his firm remained the same through all drafts of the report. He also said the draft versions fall under attorney-client privilege.

"The conclusions we reached are our conclusions," Vitarelli said. "These are things our firm stands by based on our analysis of the facts."

Kathy Braun, R-8, asked Vitarelli if his report was purposely delayed so that RTM members would not receive it until after the RTM voted on approving $7.5 million to fund the overages on the train station.

Vitarelli said multiple documents were reviewed in the course of preparing the report. "A lot of what we do is research and analysis," he said. "You have to go back to source documents and research case law."

David Becker, R-1, said that it was "insinuated" that Vitarelli's law firm has received other work from the town now that the Faifield Metro report is complete, and wanted to know who the town is getting legal advice from since Richard Saxl resigned as town attorney. Saxl submitted his resignation at Tetreau's request after receiving Vitarelli's report.

"I don't believe it has been insinuated anywhere," Tetreau responded. He said Assistant Town Attorney Eileen Kennelly is available, and if something is beyond her expertise, outside legal assistance is sought. "There are a number of attorneys that work for the town on a case-specific basis.

Becker said it appears that work has "followed this way" to McCarter & English.

But Tetreau said the firm has not been used for anything other than the Fairfield Metro report, nor does he know of any plans for the firm to do any more work for the town.

"I would hope so," Becker said, adding that he feels it is important the firm maintains its independent status. "I would ask you not to give them any business."

"I think I just said I haven't," Tetreau replied.