Letters: Hiring was appropriate ... and more
Tetreau: Hiring was appropriate
At the end of this past Wednesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, there were some inaccurate statements and several false allegations regarding the communications consultant hired by the Town this past summer. It is unfortunate that these statements were made without any background or research. I would like to take this opportunity to provide residents with background and circumstances regarding this hiring.
Let’s look at the facts:
In early August, I was notified of a possible arrest of a town employee. I realized this would be a traumatic experience for our Town and our residents would have significant concerns along with a number of questions. It would be important to fully explain the facts and circumstances of the situation. The Town does not have a communications department and I felt professional expertise was required to address this properly and expeditiously. It was and always has been my intent to provide complete and accurate information to our residents.
Hiring a communications professional in this type of situation is following best practices. To that end, I reached out to Christopher Gidez who has a background in crisis communication as well as considerable experience in managing communications on complex environmental issues. We agreed on a $3,000 retainer. It was not anticipated that there would be an extended need for Mr. Gidez’s services.
However, on the same day that two Town employees were arrested, the Health Department was notified that the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) was coming to Gould Manor Park to test for contaminants. In order to be prepared to address any public health or safety concerns, the Town immediately hired a Licensed Environmental Professional, Tighe & Bond. Additionally, since the testing performed at Gould Manor by DEEP was a result of concerns over the use of fill from the aggregate pile at the reclamation yard, I asked our Health Department to search for any additional Town sites where the aggregate fill may have been used.
Due to the seriousness and complexity of the testing of various Town sites, I asked the communications consultant to stay on to ensure that the Town provided communication that was factual, transparent, coordinated and timely during this time of anxiety and uncertainty over the health and safety of our residents.
Over the last two months, the Town has put in place an extensive communications plan. We set up a webpage, www.fairfieldct.org/filluseissues, that includes complete test results, a video from the State Department of Public Health, a “scorecard” so residents can track the status of all parks and fields and a list of third party resources to help residents better understand the relative risk of the materials identified by the testing. We have provided frequent email updates. We also set up a special email address so residents can direct specific questions and concerns to the Health Department. All the communications have been to ensure our residents have access to complete and accurate information.
My three priorities continue to be Public Safety, Accountability and Transparency/Communications.
Our message is clear and consistent. I am proud of how our Town employees have risen to this challenge, and I am grateful for the input we have received from Town residents by way of questions, suggestions and concerns. This has guided our communications.
It is inappropriate for anyone to mischaracterize these communications as anything other than factual and public safety oriented. It is my responsibility, and the Town’s responsibility, to communicate fully and regularly as the facts have unfolded over the past two months. Mr. Gidez has been an excellent and very professional resource to the Town.
It is time to stop playing politics. It is time to stop trying to scare our residents. It is the obligation of every Town employee, elected official and volunteer appointee to focus on doing what is best for our residents and for our Town.
Is Fairfield veering into a scandal well beyond the serious Fill Pile disaster? The public learned this past Wednesday that the First Selectman secretly retained a “reputation management” firm over two months ago ostensibly to respond to Fill Pile developments. Neither the other Selectmen nor the public were aware this firm was hired. The amount paid for this service appears to be beyond what the First Selectman can approve without Board of Selectmen review.
We are facing an incredible breach of trust by the First Selectman that raises many questions. We must reexamine all of First Selectman Tetreau’s behavior in light of a reputation expert’s guidance. Did the expert tell the First Selectman to follow a script and reassure the public that “The buck stops with me”? Did the expert tell the First Selectman to withhold from the public what he knew and when he knew it concerning the many millions of dollars in sewer infrastructure cost overages the Town suddenly faces? Who are the surrogates the reputation expert is directing to attack “opponents” of the First Selectman? Should the Town be paying an expert to design attacks on concerned Fairfield citizens? Did the reputation expert tell the Town Attorney to urge the Republican Selectmen to forget the past and look to the future?
Does the use of this expert constitute an election law violation? If the real reason for hiring the reputation manager was to bolster the First Selectman’s image, Mr. Tetreau should demand a refund. There are calls from some Fairfielders for Mr. Tetreau’s resignation, others decry his breach of trust. Even the RTM Democratic Caucus acknowledges that “Many residents feel betrayed and angry. People in town deserve to learn the facts.” Mr. Tetreau is the standard bearer for the Democrats, but the Democratic caucus statement is evidence of how the crisis of confidence is a miasma seeping deeply into how Mr. Tetreau is operating and how he is perceived.
For the record, I am an unaffiliated voter who believes that partisan politics will never serve us well. Instead we need strong, transparent, professional leadership and a much more collaborative culture. We must resolve Fill Pile related problems quickly and turn our attention to serious long-term challenges, foremost of which is a declining tax base due to weak home prices and weak commercial development in a state that is struggling to create jobs and growth. Fairfield needs to agree on and implement a robust strategic plan as soon as possible.
Jan R. Reber
Appalled by fill pile case
To the Editor:
As a longtime Fairfielder, I am appalled by what is happening in the fill pile case. Being that this is the biggest scandal to hit town in many years, some discussion of recent facts seems appropriate.
In case you missed it, the First Selectman has taken it upon himself to hire a public relations advisor (specifically handling the fill pile issue), Mr. Chris Gidez. The associated contract was never presented to the Board of Selectmen (Article VI, section 6.1, sub-section C, clause 1 of the Town Charter specifies that all contracts involving the Town must be approved by the Board).
In addition, there is evidence that one of the attorneys working for the Town had his legal license suspended. Nevertheless, during the time of the suspension, said lawyer continued to represent the Town in legal matters (the First Selectman was apparently aware of this breach of contract). To summarize, Fairfield officials have attempted to hide several major offenses in this matter. In doing so, they have put the health and safety of residents at grave risk.
The First Selectman himself has lied to town residents, and failed to take responsibility for the actions of his administration. His actions have caused “manifest injury” to all Fairfielders, and damaged the reputation of this fine town.
It is of some consequence that a town election is coming up. This notwithstanding, we have reached a point where “good (people) must stand” and say “enough is enough”. As such, I am calling for the resignation of First Selectman Michael Tetreau.
Mr. Tetreau, instead of further sullying the good name of Fairfield, do the right thing by being “part of the solution,” not “part of the problem.”
To The Editor,
The Town of Fairfield just lost an opportunity to make a great library even greater.
On Wednesday, Oct. 2, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) unanimously voted against purchasing a portion of the property located at 1020 Old Post Road for the expansion of the Main Library parking lot.
What’s most troubling to me about the vote is that it appears that the BOS was more concerned with appeasing the small group of neighbors surrounding the property who were in opposition to the plan, than providing the greater good to the majority of Town residents who actually drive to the Library and require a parking spot.
I am perplexed why a public hearing with adequate notice given thereof was not held in order to fully hear both sides of the story before the BOS voted on the matter. Instead, what the BOS heard Wednesday night was the emotional plight of several abutting neighbors hoping to ward off additional traffic to the street under the auspices of a historical district argument.
Furthermore, because the BOS meeting was not an open forum with questions being asked and answered, many of the false and/or misleading public comments that were made went unaddressed.
Nobody was interested in “destroying” the homes along Old Post Road as one gentleman claimed, and, specifically, the Town was not planning to demolish the house sitting at 1020 Old Post Road. An interested buyer was going to purchase the house and therefore be subjected to any and all Historic District Commission restrictions and regulations in place for the neighborhood. As for the construction of the parking lot, much care and consideration would be taken to preserve the historical nature and character of the front portion of the property, as well as the privacy and integrity of the abutting properties. No one was paving paradise to put up a parking lot.
Many of the people in opposition to the plan for “financial reasons” seemed to ignore the fact that the Library Board of Trustees voted in a special meeting held on Oct. 1 to fund up to $450,000 for the project, which the Board was told was estimated to cost $500,000. Instead, the opposition focused on the original $1.2 million dollars in bonds the Town would have issued if the entire property at 1020 Old Post Road was purchased for $875,000.
And while Selectman Tymniak was “very surprised” about “the Library’s” commitment to fund $450,000 when “last week they hadn’t even endorsed the project,” Trustee chair Sonal Rajan explicitly stated that as soon as they were able to convene a special meeting to hear all the facts as set forth by Director of Community and Economic Development, Mark Barnhart, the Library Board of Trustees voted to fund the project, or “pony up some money,” as Selectman Bateson had previously suggested they do. It was as simple as that.
Finally, to all those neighbors who claimed that spots outside of their homes on Old Post Road sit empty day after day, I say that has definitely not been my experience. I frequently drive to the Library at all different times of the day and very rarely do I ever encounter an empty space when I first pull in. More often than not, I have to sit in the parking lot and wait, sometimes up to a half an hour, for a space to become available. Additionally I have found that if the lot is full at the Library, then the spots on Old Post Road are taken too.
Despite what some neighbors have claimed, any person who regularly drives to the Fairfield Public Library knows there is a real need for additional safe parking. I wish those folks could have been given an opportunity to be heard. And I wish the opportunity to make our great Library even greater was not so callously denied based on the emotional opposition of disgruntled neighbors. Fairfield is a town of over 60,000 people; not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to walk to the Public Library.
Fairfield resident &
Director of Development,
Friends of the Fairfield Public Library
Looking ahead to electric school buses
To the Editor:
The situation that unfolded this summer around the alleged mismanagement of aggregate fill and its dissemination to various sites around town was a source of legitimate concern, especially for parents.
Fortunately, the prompt response by the Town government and extensive testing of involved sites have shown that the mishandled fill will have no discernible health impact on our kids. The state’s Department of Public Health concurs with this position.
So, parents, let’s breathe a sigh of relief — unless you’re on or near a school bus.
Every school day in Fairfield, we send thousands of children off to school in diesel-powered buses. The medical and public health literature is replete with evidence of the harmful effects of diesel particulate matter. The particles are so fine that once they get into your lungs, they are likely to stay there. Diesel fumes carry at least 40 known toxic compounds, many of which are carcinogenic. Exposure to diesel fumes is clearly related to the incidence and severity of childhood asthma.
Those who attended the Green Wheels Expo in Fairfield on Sept. 14 saw that the future has now arrived: a fully electric school bus. Electric school buses (and transit buses) are coming into service all over the country. They produce no toxic fumes, and they produce no greenhouse gases. In addition to being emission-free, these buses have extra safety features including a second emergency exit and seat belts.
Over the coming months, the Sustainable Fairfield Task Force will initiate discussions with the Town to formulate a plan to transition to electric school buses. Parents should be the natural constituency for this plan. To stay updated on these plans, please visit https://www.fairfieldct.org/sftf
Ron Blumenfeld, MD, FAAP
Scott E. Thompson, PE, ENV SP
The authors are volunteers in the Sustainable Fairfield Task Force. Blumenfeld is a pediatrician; Thompson is an environmental engineer.
To the Editor:
I write to endorse Nancy Lefkowitz in her campaign to serve on the Fairfield Board of Selectmen in the Nov. 5 election.
My chance to see Nancy’s unique abilities firsthand began on Dec. 14, 2012, the day of the horrific mass shooting of 20 children and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. As Executive Director of CT Against Gun Violence at that time, I received many dozens of phone calls on that day.
Of those intensely passionate messages left, one stood out among the rest; the one left by Nancy Lefkowitz. We agreed to meet the very next morning to discuss how she could organize a response equal to the enormity of the Sandy Hook atrocity.
She immediately set herself a target date of Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, for the March For Change, the pivotal event at the Capitol in Hartford to show legislators the passion of their constituents in demanding comprehensive changes to our gun laws.
In this short time, Nancy had to arrange for volunteers, galvanize the public, attract the press, coordinate with the Capitol Police, arrange for first aid, coordinate and provide information necessary for speakers and honored guests, and fight the effects of a memorable snowstorm — all seamlessly executed. To our amazement and eternal gratitude, a record crowd of 5500 enthusiastic supporters arrived to demand that elected officials take action.
The rally was undoubtedly the turning point of the legislative campaign.
On April 4, Governor Malloy signed into law the most comprehensive package of gun safety legislation the nation had ever seen.
This simply could not have been accomplished had it not been for that phone call and Nancy’s intrepid persistence.
I enthusiastically endorse Nancy Lefkowitz’ for election to the Fairfield Board of Selectman on Nov. 5.
Support for Kupchick, Flynn
I’d like to ask Fairfield residents to imagine a town where the political parties actually got along and worked together for the common good of its citizens. Where our leaders can reach out across the aisle to accomplish goals. Where corruption and a “good ole’ boys’ club” mentality is not tolerated. Where economic development is a priority so that we can grow our commercial tax base and therefore lower our residential taxes. Where senior citizens can afford to stay in their homes and young buyers can afford to move here and buy their first home. Where transparency and accountability matter. If you think this is a pie in the sky dream, think again. We CAN have all of that and more....if we elect Brenda Kupchick as our next 1st Selectwoman and Tom Flynn as Selectman.
Brenda Kupchick’s impressive resume of experience extends not only from a local level, but all the way to Hartford, as our current State Rep. I believe this gives Brenda an in depth advantage in governing, as she has seen how politics works from the ground up, all the way to Hartford. She knows better than anyone how to get the job done. It is time for a change, and we the good, hard working citizens of Fairfield deserve the best. I enthusiastically endorse this dynamic team and I hope you do too.
Vote for Lefkowitz
Please join me in supporting Nancy Lefkowitz for Selectman this November. It has been my pleasure serving with Nancy on the Representative Town Meeting this term. On the RTM, Nancy took on leadership roles as the Chair of the Public Health and Safety Committee and as the lead sponsor of the first ordinance in Fairfield’s history to regulate the safe discharge of firearms. Nancy is smart, accessible, and most importantly, a good listener. One of her greatest skills is her ability to engage in respectful discussion with all stakeholders to an issue, no matter the subject, always with an eye towards solving problems and building consensus. In today’s political climate, we need thoughtful, solution-focused leaders like Nancy more than ever.
I hope that you will join me in voting for Nancy on November 5th.
Endorses Kupchick, Flynn
To the Editor:
This is the election that will impact Fairfield for years to come and I am fortunate to be on a team that is supporting Brenda Kupchick for First Selectman and Tom Flynn as Selectman. The Kupchick -Flynn ticket has a positive vision for Fairfield. They both have the knowledge, experience and plan to help Fairfield into the future.
As a candidate for the Board of Finance, I support Brenda and Tom’s proposed plan for economic development, fiscal responsibility of the Town budget and smart, efficient Board of Education spending.
Fairfiled’s citizens deserve better than the current state of questionable administrative decisions and potential criminal convictions of some of the Town’s departmental managers.
Fairfield Citizens deserve better, they deserve government transparency and better communication they deserve to have Brenda Kupchick and Tom Flynn lead Fairfield as well as the entire Republican team who are committed to restoring trust in the administration of government.
Republican Candidate Board of Finance
To the Editor:
So now it’s 10 cents for a bag in the supermarket. I have not been able to find out where that 10 cents goes in Connecticut. In California, per Prop. 67, it is deemed to go directly back to the retailer that demands the “tax.” I’m not understanding this. There is a claim that the 10 cents is to disincentivize the public from using mean old plastic.That seems specious. What about the plastic wrap used to contain my chicken breasts, or further, what’s to be said for the styrofoam tray that the product sits upon? Arent those ‘’bad things’’? Not too long ago , ‘’paper’’ was the culprit. Did you ever notice the length of your receipt at most convenience/pharmacy establishments? The purchase of a roll of lifesavers yields about 18 inches of paper receipt! Did you ever notice a news clip containing images of politicians seated for any number of reasons , in-session Congress hearings etc. , and the array of plastic water bottles poised directly in front of each participant? Nothing said about this flagrant attack on the enviornment. There are volumes about the apocraphy of saving the planet, but I can only take so much before my head starts to spin. The sophistry involved with the notion that any impact is taking place is insulting.