Letter to the editor: A need for change following fill pile arrests

A need for change following fill pile arrests

As elected leaders and Fairfield residents, we are angered and saddened by the recent arrests of former and current Town employees on criminal allegations related to the fill-pile scandal originally uncovered in 2019. The alleged criminal activity, abuse of power and negligence is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated; anyone responsible must be held accountable. We appreciate the diligent efforts of law enforcement in investigating these matters. In the wake of this crisis, it is critical that we learn from this terrible failure in our procedures to better understand how to prevent something similar from occurring in the future. We have an opportunity to emerge stronger.

We are fully committed to working with our Republican colleagues and the Town Administration to not only remediate the injuries to our town lands but also to enact policies and procedures that will protect our town going forward. Both RTM caucuses put forward valuable action steps to address the failures revealed in Fall 2019, and we would like to make a renewed call to take a hard look at the Town’s operations and make the needed structural changes. We urge the Administration to identify and address the root causes of the fill pile abuses and institute a culture of accountability and transparency. The solution cannot solely rely on the replacement of individual employees accused of wrong-doing; it must include intentional action plans that address the following:

• A significantly enhanced, robust code-of-conduct and ethics policy that is clearly communicated to all employees, board and commission members and contractors, through ongoing training; as well as an independently administered “whistleblower” policy that enables ethics breaches to be reported anonymously and without fear of retaliation and is monitored by our Ethics Commission or other appropriate Town body.

• Resolution of all significant audit findings that were identified in the independent audit of the Department of Public Works completed in May 2020.

• Filling key open positions on a permanent basis with qualified, credentialed leaders who are committed to holding themselves and others to the highest standards of integrity.

We urge immediate and on-going action to address these underlying structural and operational inadequacies so that we can move Fairfield forward and emerge stronger as a community.

Nancy Lefkowitz, Selectwoman

Lori Charlton, Member, Board of Finance

Sheila Marmion, Member, Board of Finance

John Mitola, Member, Board of Finance

Karen Wackerman, Moderator, Representative Town Meeting

Jill Vergara, Majority Leader, Representative Town Meeting