State prosecutor addresses Fairfield residents on dumping case
FAIRFIELD — A public meeting Wednesday night gave residents the chance to confront the state’s prosecution about their criminal investigation into the town’s Public Works pile.
Due to the ongoing investigation, however, the majority of questions were left unanswered.
Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Tamberlyn Conopask,who is prosecuting the case for the chief state’s attorney’s office, held a meeting at Sacred Heart University to address the state’s case against former Public Works officials Joseph Michelangelo and Scott Bartlett, as well as the co-owner of Julian Enterprises, Jason Julian.
Julian is accused of bribing Public Works officials to allow the construction company to dump hundreds of truckloads of soil containing toxic levels of lead and PCBs on town property adjacent to Fairfield’s public works garage.
The case gained traction in Fairfield when the town discovered that under Bartlett and Michelangelo’s leadership, the pile’s contaminated fill was used on fields and parks. Ongoing testing has found low levels of contamination on some sites, and remediation efforts are in the works.
Earlier Wednesday, a Superior Court judge refused to block the meeting despite requests from Julian’s lawyer.
“The victims do have a right to be heard and I don’t believe the state will be discussing any evidence that has not already be made public,” Judge Tracy Lee Dayton said.
“We are contesting the charges, my client denies all allegations and my concern is that the matter needs to be handled through the court and not at a town meeting,” Julian’s attorney, Brian Spears, told the judge.
Conopask said in court that public meetings are the rights of victims under Connecticut law.
“Under the state constitution, people impacted by a crime have the right to be heard, and that is what we are doing,” Conopask told the judge.
Conopask reiterated this to residents in attendance Wednesday night, explaining that the state identifies as victims any persons who suffer direct or threatened physical, emotional or financial harm because of a crime.
According to the Connecticut constitution, people affected by crimes have the right to communicate with the prosecutor, be notified of court proceedings and provide victim impact statements.
Conopask instructed attendees on how to compose and submit victim impact statements, which are delivered to the court at sentencing hearings.
Conopask then opened up the room to questions, but made clear that she could not answer any questions about the ongoing investigation or the case being built.
This meant that the majority of residents’ questions were met with a response from Conopask that she heard their concerns, but was not at liberty to comment on them.
Such unanswered questions asked about Julian’s fraudulent bonds payments, potential contamination of school buses, groundwater leakage and whether the accused would get jail time or have to pay restitution to the town.
Conopask referred other questions outside of her jurisdiction to separate state agencies. One resident asked if the state could do a second round of field testing to eliminate any potential for biased results from the town’s contracted licensed environmental professional, Tighe & Bond.
Conopask recommended such questions be directed to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“It’s not our role to provide that, but if you’re not satisfied, then you need to keep asking,” Conopask said.
Multiple residents asked what the State’s Attorney’s office would do with any public safety issues uncovered over the course of the investigation.
Conopask assured them that public safety is the office’s first priority, and anything uncovered would be immediately reported.
“If there’s information that comes in regarding any immediate issue of public health and safety, our law enforcement privilege wouldn’t trump our obligation to refer that to the proper agencies to address it,” she said.
Bartlett and Julian had their case continued to Oct. 1 after appearing in court Wednesday morning. Michelangelo did not appear today, and his appearance was rescheduled for Oct. 17.