Fairfield police told to keep quiet about Julian raid
FAIRFIELD — Police were instructed to withhold from town officials information obtained during an investigation into a company currently in a legal battle with Fairfield.
Lawyers working on behalf of the town recently told police to keep quiet about a raid on the offices of property manager Julian Enterprises.
That struck at least one town leader as inappropriate.
According to Selectman Edward Bateson, arbitration between the town and Julian Enterprises regarding the fill pile on Richard White Way began on July 8 and was set to continue in the following days. However, it ended abruptly after the Julian offices in Fairfield were served with a search and seizure warrant.
Bateson expressed frustration with being kept away from critical information that could relate to the arbitration.
“I’m trying to do the right thing here, but it’s been very difficult,” he said.
The Fairfield Citizen obtained email correspondence from Stuart Katz, an attorney for the town from the law firm Cohen and Wolf, confirming that a raid occurred, and computers and other property were removed from Julian’s offices.
In the same email, Katz requested the Fairfield Police Department not share any information obtained from the search with anyone involved in the case.
“In light of the ongoing arbitration, it is important that any information or property obtained by the Police Department not be shared with the Board of Selectmen or any town employee involved with the case,” Katz wrote to First Selectman Michael Tetreau, who forwarded the correspondence to Bateson, Selectman Christopher Tymniak, Chief of Police Christopher Lyddy, Deputy Chief of Police Donald Smith and the town’s other lawyers.
In response, Lyddy confirmed he had received and understood Katz’s request.
Reached for comment, Tetreau stated that this request was not out of the ordinary for a criminal investigation.
“It’s my understanding that the Fairfield Police Department followed their normal protocol, that in criminal cases they do not comment to the public or to town officials,” Tetreau said. “However, on the civil case, which is what the arbitration is about with Julian, Mr. Bateson has talked to the attorneys multiple times and has full access to the information on the arbitration.”
Lyddy also said that this was normal procedure.
“The Fairfield police do not make comment on active criminal investigations,” Lyddy said. “During the course of an investigation, if the possibility exist that attorney-client privilege could be compromised, the State Attorney’s Office invokes a normal procedure where an independent officer of the court is appointed to conduct a review of all evidence. This review takes place to ensure that no police officers involved in an investigation come into contact with any evidence that might contain protected information.”
Tetreau noted that the Board of Selectman is having a transcript made of the arbitration hearing, and they have directed that it be made available to the public when it is ready in about two weeks.
Katz did not respond to a request for comment.
The lenghty legal saga dates back to May 2017 when the town sued Julian, seeking $3 million in damages and claiming breach of contract when the fill pile the company was hired to reduce nearly tripled in total height and volume. Hazardous material was also found at the location. Around the same time, police launched a criminal investigation into allegations of misconduct at the fill pile when residents complained of increased volume of material and excessive truck traffic in the area.
Soon after, Julian countersued the town for defamation, arguing the town was spreading harmful misinformation. The two civil lawsuits were withdrawn in November, with both parties agreeing to go into an arbitration hearing instead of court.
Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance members pushed back on this decision and petitioned to have it moved back into public court, but Judge Barbara Bellis denied the request.