Tetreau to propose oversight initiatives
FAIRFIELD — First Selectman Mike Tetreau is proposing new steps to address environmental and employee oversight concerns.
Tetreau said Monday that he plans to request the establishment of three initiatives at Wednesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting: creating an environmental safety committee, enhancing ethics procedures and debuting the town’s whistleblower hotline.
This is the latest in the town’s ongoing focus on the contaminated Public Works pile and the use of its fill on town parks and fields. Tetreau said these new initiatives will mark a shift in his approach from zeroing in on public safety to looking at the broader procedural problems involved.
Tetreau’s proposed environmental safety committee, he said, would take charge of ongoing fill pile issues by reviewing potential sites for testing, as well as addressing other questions around environmental safety as they arise.
Tetreau is proposing that the committee be composed of five to seven non-elected officials appointed by the Board of Selectmen. He specifically wants the committee to operate separately from town government to allow for fresh, unbiased eyes.
“This is so we make it real public oversight, and don’t just duplicate perspectives we have,” Tetreau explained.
If the Board of Selectmen agrees to set up this committee, they can appoint members at their meeting two weeks from Wednesday.
Tetreau will also propose that the Board of Selectmen establish a more thorough ethics code and training, especially pertaining to conflicts of interest.
“The current code of ethics is a little light on specifics and not broad enough in terms of providing understanding,” he said.
Tetrau also hopes to fold ethics training into new employee onboarding and ongoing training, and to make sure employees feel comfortable raising ethics issues. He also hopes to ensure that the Ethics Commission is more proactive in increasing accountability.
Lastly, Tetreau plans to roll out the town’s anonymous whistleblower hotline, which will be available by both phone and email, later this week.
He hopes to begin with employee training to ensure that departments understand the new process, and then open it up to the public in a few weeks.
The hotline will be managed by a third-party provider, and Tetreau is proposing that concerns be sent to the Ethics Commission for review, who will then be responsible for updating the Board of Selectmen.
Selectmen Ed Bateson and Chris Tymniak have made no secret of their discontent with what has transpired in the fill pile case, and have called for greater transparency and accountability from the First Selectman’s office.
Reached for comment, Tymniak said he’s skeptical of these plans, which he sees as eschewing responsibility. Elected officials, he said, are responsible for oversight, per the town’s charter.
“The residents elected Mike to make these decisions on behalf of the residents of Fairfield,” he said. “[We should not] pass it off to an appointed committee who may or may not have the expertise which we would have, not mention the time it takes to fully understand and grasp what’s going on.”
These three proposals will be considered at Wednesday’s 5 p.m. Board of Selectmen meeting