Letters to the Editor
Who am I? Although I grew up in town (Warde graduate) and returned here after being educated, working and living in D.C and Boston, many of you don't know me.
In 2011, Fairfield's First Selectman, Ken Flatto, had moved on to take a job with the State. That left me, the Democratic Selectman, to run the Town as acting First Selectman until the Democrats could propose a replacement and the Board of Selectman could vote on the replacement.
I never sought the First Selectman post. I never sought the Selectman post either, but I had been active on a multitude of boards and commissions for about 25 yrs and I was asked to replace my friend Selectman Denise Dougiello who was ill, with the hopes that she would recuperate and return to her rightfully earned (elected) post. That did not happen and 3 and a half years later, I was, surprise, First Selectman. At the time, I was running two businesses and managing the care of an elderly parent. I had zero interest and zero time to take on what I know is a 24/7 job beyond the 40 days it took for the Town to replace me with the Democratic Town Committee's unanimous choice for First Selectman, Mike Tetreau.
I have known Mike for over 4 decades. I know him to be optimistic, hard working, honest, bright, and gentlemanly. His father, Fern, was the assistant principal at Ffld Woods when I attended that school. Later retired, Fern was the manager of the first real estate office I worked in. He was fair and measured. As they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree.
Mike was a graduate of Fairfield Public Schools (Ludlowe) and earned an Engineering degree from Princeton University. He went on to work for Arthur Anderson in Europe and in the US. His consulting skills (budgeting, defining problems, assessing options and organizing solutions) were useful in the executive positions he held in the lock and security industries and they have also served our Town well, in many areas, especially during crisis- from finance, to storm recuperation, to environmental to school safety.
The first week I took over the Town I found out there was an environmental issue in developing the Metro train station (an old Brownfield site).. too much dirty dirt and no plan to solve that. I stopped the project so no dirt would be moved to the developers portion of the site, which is what I was being informed they planned to do. I called in Mike who had been endorsed by the DTC and said hey, we have a problem. We agreed we needed to assess the problem fully, define it, define options to solve the problem and their costs and then bring it to town bodies to approve or deny. We divided tasks to be done.
So essentially Mike started his term with a problem he did not create. He did a fine job of limiting confusion, fear, and liability by defining the problem and following through the process systematically. While the commercial part of the project has not been fully realised due to a floundering economy and developers having been replaced along the way, we now have a non-Brownfield site with public park, functioning train station and the ability for commercial space to go there. Mike's political opponent decries that he should have created something there by now. I see it as he has not supported inappropriate uses.. like making it a congested residential area which was one recent proposal. Sometimes the prudent move is not to move. Patience is a virtue. Be careful what you wish for.
I feel Mike has 4 particular strengths that have served him well in the position of First Selectman:
2. a systematic approach to problem solving
3. Strong financial and budgeting skills.
4. Team building
AT 60, I KNOW THAT IN LIFE, NOT SO GREAT STUFF HAPPENS SOMETIMES. Some problems can be prepared for, some need to be addressed because well... they just happened.
Of the many challenges: safety (school threats... remember the threat was against ALL of our schools), weather (Irene, Sandy and Nemo were the biggest ones), fiscal(GE leaving, and a floundering state and federal economy), and environmental ( Metro station), I have seen Mike deal with them all admirably. His communication with the community over the top. Especially when the school threat occurred. Parents raved to me about how grateful they were that they knew where to go, what to do and what was going on at all times.
The most recent unfortunate situation, which is more unfortunate because we are in "silly season" (election time), occurred because of collusion between the former DPW superintendent, the former director of DPW and the owner of Julian Construction who ran the DPW yard. It was disappointing to everyone who knew these people, even peripherally. In this case, like all of the others, Mike has been circumspect. He waited until the situation was clear, knew the human resource laws and did not violate them, giving time for the full situation to be known and addressed appropriately and methodically. This case while disappointing could not be predicted and is being morphed into something it is not, because of an election.
In all of the situations I mentioned above, Mike's action has been clear and thorough, utilizing the expertise of the appropriate departments' (health, safety, police, fire, human resources, legal) along the way. Then when things are over he reviews what happened with the departments involved and makes changes to the protocols in an attempt to keep the problem from happening again or to minimize future problems.
In short, Mike thinks things out, is open, and communicates well with the entire community. (Maybe too well- how many calls did you get during the last storm?). He is organized, dedicated, process driven, transparent and each time he has met the challenge that faced us. His actions on this crime by subordinates has been addressed the same way.
Fairfield is essentially a 305 million dollar “business” in the “service industry.” Mike has the background, both educationally and in practice - Arthur Anderson consultant, and 8yrs as Executive in Chief of our town, to perform this job well. We are one of only 4 towns in CT to have a AAA bond rating from all 3 rating agencies, our pensions, etc are fully funded. We have excellent schools, high commercial occupancy, and the lowest three year increase in taxes, even given the economy and losing GE. Unfortunate challenges will continue to happen... we need someone who can face those challenges.
Why fix what’s not broken? Re-elect Mike Tetreau for First Selectman. He truly loves our Town and works for us.
Sherri A. Steeneck
‘Culture of concealment’
To the Editor:
We are now several months into grappling with the fallout from the mismanagement of the Fairfield Aggregate Fill Pile Operation. After participating in hours of public meetings, reading several thousand emails, speaking with numerous people from paid professionals, to town employees, to residents, it is abundantly clear that our First Selectman does not care to follow or respect the Town Charter. His bury his head in the sand and admit no wrong doing laisse fair attitude propagated a culture of censorship and concealment all enacted from his corner office at Town Hall.
This lack of respect for following the rules that are meant to protect the Town and its residents has led to an alleged government corruption scandal unseen of before in the Town of Fairfield. Two town employees have now been arrested and the State’s Attorney has stated the investigation is on-going on wide-spread.
Mike Tetreau’s desire for concealment is evidenced by several inexplicable actions:
1. When approached by the State’s Attorney’s office in 2011 regarding an investigation of a DPW employee, Mike Tetreau refused to discuss allegations of public corruption with the investigator, even going so far as to hire an attorney to essentially issue a “no comment.”
2. When notified about Gould Manor Park contaminants in 2014-2015, Mike Tetreau did not respond to the concerned citizen complaint and he did not ask the Town Health Department to investigate visible asbestos in the Park. When the issue came to light again 2019, after the incident was reported to police by same concerned citizen who connected the dots to the aggregate fill pile operation, Tetreau closed ranks on the dissemination of information and handling of those events from 2014-15.
3. When the Julian’s were awarded the RFP in 2013 to manage the aggregate fill pile operation, Tetreau failed to bring what became in effect a service contract to the Board of Selectmen for approval. A clear Charter violation that allowed him to avoid a public vetting of the project.
4. This August, Mike Tetreau retained a “Reputation Advisor.” The contract was written using the advisor’s surname, as opposed to the company LLC name, G7 Reputation Advisory Group, and then the costs for those services were reported to the Board of Finance as an “environmental consultant.” Further, he never brought the contract to the Board of Selectmen for approval, again by-passing the Charter, and avoiding a public airing of the hire.
5. Mike Tetreau, quietly, without Board of Selectmen approval moved the public Superior Court civil litigation case against Julian to private binding arbitration.
6. After being approached by the Chief of Police who wanted discuss grave concerns about the criminal investigation of the Aggregate Fill Pile Operations and the alleged involvement of a town employee, Mike Tetreau turned away the Chief.
Our residents expect honest government. I attended the RTM Special Meeting in October. There was bi-partisan consensus that our Charter rules were broken. There was bi-partisan consensus that an Independent Firm needs to be hired to unwind what was broken and advise us on how to prevent it from happening again. That bi-partisan consensus is a direct reflection of Mike Tetreau’s mismanagement from refusing to follow the Charter. Further, after attending the Board of Finance Special Meeting and watching them grapple with the fallout from Mike Tetreau’s interpretation of the Charter and the finer points of the Purchasing Authority protocols, of which Tetreau is a member, it is clear that Mr. Tetreau is not up to the First Selectman job.
We expect our elected officials to uphold the Town Charter, enforce public policy and promote open and transparent processes. When that does not occur we feel betrayed; and that is what we are really dealing with in this instance, betrayal. This feeling of betrayal has led us to this esoteric introspective exercise to question the Town Charter, purchasing policy and regulatory practices. However that’s not the real problem; the real problem is that Mike Tetreau fostered a culture of concealment and public obfuscation in Town Hall that led to this debacle.
It can easily be fixed by removing Mike Tetreau.
Town of Fairfield
Tetreau undermines trust
Mike Tetreau’ actions regarding the Public Works Department corruption scandal and the Julian issue have undermined people’s trust in government and cost the tax payers millions.
After much research, backed up by supporting documents on the “Fairfield Fights Toxic Waste” Facebook page, the following is my basis for this determination: From 2009 until 2011 an investigation into public corruption and criminal acts was conducted by the State’s Attorney’s office. In December 2011, First Selectman Tetreau, through a lawyer, refused to meet with the investigator. A warrant was submitted, went over to court and was never seen again. If Tetreau had taken that one meeting, we may not be in the position we are today.
As a result, children have been exposed for years to contaminated soil, millions of dollars in taxpayer money is being spent on remediation and two members of the Tetreau administration have been charged with public corruption. In 2014-2015, residents sent emails regarding glass and asbestos in the soil at several fields and parks. Emails between Tetreau and department heads reference the complaints and the fact that the soil came from the Julian pile. Despite this knowledge, no soil testing was ordered.
In 2016, PCB’s are found at the Julian site. Still, no soil testing was ordered. In 2017, a bi-partisan RTM Subcommittee requested a criminal investigation. Tetreau was aware of the investigation and strangely requested that the Police do not update him until it is over. In December 2018, the Police Chief, who publicly stated that he had “deep, deep concerns,” tried to brief Tetreau on the pending corruption arrests and was turned away. The HR Director was given a copy of the corruption report, he reviewed it and he took no action. Following the arrests of two department heads, Tereau claimed he had no knowledge of the corruption investigation. I believe it was Tetreau’s job to know and he failed to protect the town.
To make matters worse, the Tetreau secretly hired a reputation consultant. The expenditure was clearly political but was paid for by taxpayer dollars ($20k) and hidden as a remediation expense. Today an expanded criminal investigation remains active per the Chief State’s Attorney’s office. Will there be more arrests? What else don’t we know about corruption in Fairfield’s government? The people of the Town of Fairfield have a big decision to make Tuesday. We can continue down this path of blind mismanagement or we can choose a new direction. For me, the choice is clear, enough is enough. Vote for change on November 5th. Vote for Brenda Kupchick, Tom Flynn and their entire team.
Editor’s Note: The writer is chairman of the Fairfield Republican Town Committee.