Julian suing Fairfield for defamation over fill pile dispute

The town has filed suit against Julian Development for its failure to reduce the fill pile at One Rod Highway.
The town has filed suit against Julian Development for its failure to reduce the fill pile at One Rod Highway.Genevieve Reilly / Genevieve Reilly

FAIRFIELD — Julian Development is dishing some dirt of its own, and filing a defamation lawsuit against the town, according to the company’s attorney.

The town has filed a suit, charging Julian with breach of contract over its management of fill pile at the Public Work yard, and seeking $3 million in damages. The town also claims Julian allowed material contaminated with low levels of lead and PCBs to be dumped at the pile.

Attorney Michael Stratton, who represents Julian, said in a release Wednesday there has been a “tremendous amount of misinformation” from First Selectman Mike Tetreau and Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo regarding the fill pile operation which has harmed the business.

“Worse yet, this defamation has been done deliberately by town officials to conceal their own actions in bringing load after load of unsuitable and polluted material to the landfill site,” Stratton said.

Town Attorney Stanton Lesser said Wednesday had not yet received a copy of the suit and declined comment. The lawsuit was officially filed with the town Thursday.

Contrary to town claims that Julian failed to reduce the size of the pile, as called for in a three-year contract, Stratton said Julian met the requirements and reduced the volume of material, and did so at no cost to taxpayers.

Julian paid the town a fee of $9,000 a year to run the operation and sold the town any needed fill material at below market rates.

“Unfortunately, the town insisted in the contract that they reserve the right to dump whatever material they wished into the site during the three-year contract period,” Stratton said. Over those three years, Stratton claims, the town brought “load after load of sludge, refuse and other materials to the site.” He said Julian employees marked delivery receipts for those loads as “unsuitable material.”

Julian didn’t allow those materials brought in by the town into the main area, Stratton said because it hadn’t been tested and couldn’t be used due to potential contamination. In fact, Stratton said, while Julian was trying to clean up the site, the town was contaminating it, making the company’s job more difficult.

“Town officials are deceiving the public when they say that Julian Development, LLC, didn’t reduce the landfill as required by the contract,” Stratton said. “In fact, Julian met all requirements. Moreover, town officials are attempting to blame Julian for polluted PCB materials dumped by them at the site.”

To claim Julian contaminated the site “is a devastating charge and absolutely false, and known to be false by Tetreau and Michelangelo,” Stratton said.

Julian had to clean and organize the site during the first year, separate materials, build roads, move piles and station machinery and personnel on site, Stratton said. He said during the second year, the pile grew, which was to be expected.

“Julian Development was specifically directed by Tetreau and Michelangelo to ‘ramp up sales,’ which the company did by placing a weight scale on site at the yard, hiring additional sales people, adding trucks/equipment and reducing material prices in order to efficiently supply the increased number of sales,” according to Stratton.

In 2016, the final year of the contract, Stratton said Julian began to “export mass quantities of sellable product, and reduce the pile to below 30 feet as per the agreement in the RFP. However, Stratton claims, political pressure from a small group of residents prompted Tetreau and Michelangelo to contradict the “ramp up” order and instead, reduce their operation.

At that point, Stratton said, Julian told the town they would need another four to six months to keep up with efforts to reduce the pile, and officials gave verbal assurances the contract would be extended for a fourth year. In fact, Stratton said, Julian offered to provide a plan in writing to get the pile down to grade and completely gone by the end of 2017, if granted an extension.

“Reducing the size of the pile is, and always has been, a multi-year process with several stages,” Stratton said. “If the promises made by Tetreau and Michelangelo were honored, the pile would be nearly gone.” There would also be enough material left for the town to build the berm promised to neighbors by town officials.

Statton said materials brought to the site were frequently tested over the three-year period and there was never any issue with contamination. The contaminated materials were found one week before the contract was canceled, Stratton said, and the levels were so low that when contacted, both the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency instructed Julian to handle it themselves.

“It appears that this information has become a frivolous lawsuit to cover the poor decisions and misdirection of the town officials, and to make Julian Development appear responsible for a multimillion dollar cleanup of a 40-year-old problem,” Stratton said.

He said the misinformation will be “revealed in time” to back up Julian’s claims in court, and that town officials are using Julian as a scapegoat to protect their positions and reputations.