Selectmen get update on fill pile lawsuit

The view from atop the new landscaped berm built to block the view of the town's fill pile. Fairfield,CT. 7/11/18

The view from atop the new landscaped berm built to block the view of the town's fill pile. Fairfield,CT. 7/11/18

Genevieve Reilly / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — More than a month after the town and Julian Enterprises withdrew their civil lawsuits against each other to enter into an arbitration agreement, town officials are now getting updates on the ongoing litigation.

“The case has not been settled yet,” town attorney Stanton Lesser said after the Jan. 2 selectmen meeting that included an executive session. “We do come to the Board of Selectmen and they have the right to settle cases and the claims pursued.”

Not commenting on pending litigation is part of legal strategy and the arbitration agreement was a change of forum, he added.

The town filed a civil lawsuit against Julian in May 2017 and sought $3 million in damages, claiming the company did not fulfill the terms of a three-year contract that called for the reduction of a pile of road construction debris. Julian Enterprises filed its own lawsuit against the town claiming defamation shortly thereafter, but both suits were withdrawn in mid-November.

News of the arbitration agreement came as a surprise to some of the selectmen and Board of Finance members, the latter demanding answers from First Selectman Mike Tetreau and Lesser.

In December, a town official expressed concern that article 9 of the town charter may have been violated since the selectmen were not notified of the arbitration agreement.

Article 9.3.C states that the town attorney shall “prosecute or defend, appeal from or defend appeals from, and make settlements of, litigation and claims, as the Board of Selectmen direct.”

Now, it appears some of those answers have been given.

“I want to thank the attorneys for giving us an update. The update was warranted,” Selectman Ed Bateson said at the Jan. 2 meeting. “As you know, (First Selectman Mike Tetreau), I was upset that this matter didn’t come before the board. The attorneys provided a lot of insight as to what’s going in with the case and I appreciate it and it’s something I want to consider for the next couple of weeks.”

According to public court documents, the arbitration hearing between the town, Julian and the arbitrator, Judge Elaine Gordon, will take place Feb. 13-15 at the offices of Cohen and Wolf, P.C. in Bridgeport. The hearing will be private.

“(The town attorneys) definitely gave us a lot to think about,” Selectman Chris Tymniak said after the executive session. “It was a good update.”

Other boards have also inquired about the status of the lawsuit.

The Board of Finance at their Nov. 27 meeting requested that Tetreau and Lesser attend their Dec. 4 meeting. At the December meeting, however, Chief Fiscal Officer Robert Mayer said he had misunderstood the board’s request and had not informed Lesser that his presence had been warranted.

Lesser said he would attend the Board of Finance’s Jan. 8 meeting.

The Fairfield Citizen filed a Freedom of Information Act with the town Dec. 31 this week, requesting more information on the fill pile and the pending lawsuit.

The arbitration agreement filed with the court states the “parties agree that the decision is final and binding and reviewable under only limited circumstances by statute.”