Tuesday, September 29, 2009

McCarty and Freda Letters

This post is intended to supplement a letter to the editor I wrote to the North Haven Citizen today. The letter refers to a McCarty campaign letter and a letter to the editor written to the Citizen (and other papers) by First Selectman candidate Michael Freda and other Republican candidates.

Here is the McCarty campaign letter. Click on it to make it full-size.

And here is the Republican candidates' letter to the editor. Click on it to make it full-size.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Town Discussion That Wasn't

I finally watched the part of the Board of Finance meeting dealing with the supplemental forensic investigation report and whether it was officially authorized, generally agreed to without a vote, or wrongfully authorized by Michael Hallahan.

Two very important things were said there that were ignored by those attacking Hallahan and the Democrats on this blog.

One, Hallahan and Piccirillo said that they would be willing to pay for the supplemental report if it turned out Hallahan acted wrongfully. I can see why this was ignored. Has any North Haven Republican politician offered to pay for a mistake? Has any North Haven Republican politician even admitted to making a mistake?

Even if Hallahan, mistakenly or not, wrongly authorized the supplemental report, which might lead to more insurance money for the town, the town will not have to pay for it. This is a major difference between at least some elected North Haven Democrats and elected North Haven Republicans, and I’m proud of Hallahan and Piccirillo for making this unusual and responsible offer.

If the former administration had admitted, apologized for, and done its best to correct what it did, I would have supported it. But from my first conversation with Kevin Kopetz in 2003 until the present day, he has denied everything, apologized for nothing, and corrected things only to the extent his hand was forced by the fear of losing the 2007 election.

Two, Hallahan did not illegally appropriate any money, as suggested by William H. The original appropriation for the forensic investigation had not been spent yet. But this minor fact would have gotten in the way of angry accusations.

It was my understanding, as well, that everyone on the BoF wanted the investigation extended back a few years. In any event, the real issue wasn’t about this minor extension, but whether the investigation will go beyond the Community Services Department, an extension I have supported from the beginning.

But the real subject of this blog entry is my decision to act on my recognition that the discussion here is not about the issues confronting our town, but about political animosity. And that it doesn’t look like it’s going to change. This is a town discussion that wasn't. It's psychologically fascinating, but of no value to the town, and probably of some harm.

Every time I try to steer things toward issues, with the exception of the Rabina Properties development, others steer the blog away, and often with no respect for facts. They are driving the good people away, and sadly I think this is their goal.

This blog is not something I want to put my efforts into anymore. The election is over, and we have a decent, responsible administration. It will certainly make mistakes, but nothing that deserves the bile that has been poured out on this blog. So this is my last blog entry, and the blog will no longer be open for comments.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another Board of Finance Marathon

I did not attend last night's Board of Finance meeting, but it seems to have been a marathon with all sorts of controversy.

This is a place for those who attended or have watched the meeting to discuss it. But please try to be clear and complete in your descriptions of what happened, and fair and understanding, as well. If you don't understand something, ask (I don't mean me, especially since I haven't even seen the meeting). Don't just assume things were this way or that.

Here's the first comment on the meeting:

William H. said...

Rob, I really wish you were at the Board of Finance meeting. It was a real circus. I have to be honest, the democrats might have dug themselves into a hole. Allegedly, Michael Hallahan approved the Audit Company to do an additional forensic audit without approval from the Board of Finance, which as you know is a direct violation of the Town Charter and the CT Statute. Mr. Hallahan went on to indirectly admit this but his explaniation was that his actions were in the best interest of the town. Now, Rob, as a lawyer I'm sure you can agree that intent does not overrule policy. If one counters that the Republicans were doing this for years, my rebuttal would be that the Democrats promised to stop these actions and bring integrity back to Town Hall. Is this a good start? Also, I'm sure you'll hear that Martin Piccirilo's behavior at the meeting was deplorable but that's another story. I am happy to report that the Board will act as a bipartisan unit when putting together their budget, which is a good first step to your bipartisan uptopia.

As I said, I wasn't there, so I don't know what was done or said. But I am required to say once again that I am not a lawyer, that I haven't been a lawyer for 25 years, and that I was never a member of the Connecticut bar. If I don't do this, I will be publicly accused of illegal conduct by a member of the Republican Town Committee.

What actions did the Democrats promise to stop that you know occurred? And did the Democrats fail to stop it?

The question that your description raises is, Why would a forensic investigation firm do any work based on the words of one Board of Finance member, when it is directed by acting finance director Ed Swinkoski and there had been no BoF vote? In other words, did Hallahan talk to the firm about doing further investigations, or did he order them to do it, and did they accept his orders?

This is what I mean by providing a clear and complete description, and not making assumptions. But I don't know what was said or what happened, so I can do nothing more here than ask questions.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Where's Waldo? Hard at Work.

A few months ago, I made fun of how many times Kevin Kopetz's picture appears in the latest Civic Calendar, comparing it to Where's Waldo? It was also common to find his picture in the local newspapers, standing next to every new business that opened its doors in North Haven.

I was happy to see the announcement of the opening of Lucilia's Fine Foods in today's Courier, and no picture of either the former or the present First Selectman. I believe that's a first, and I hope not the last.

Instead, standing with the proud new business owners is the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce president, Robin Wilson. Much more appropriate!

The First Selectman's job is not to get his or her picture taken for the newspapers and calendars, but to do the work he or she is elected (and paid) to do. If McCarty's predecessor had spent as much time managing as he did having his picture taken, he'd probably still be First Selectman.

I hope Lucilia's becomes known for much more than the company it keeps in newspaper photos, and becomes a town institution.

New Meeting Dates and Questions for Janet

See the North Haven Info website for dates, places, times, and topics of meetings, including the Board of Finance meeting this evening, the Board of Selectmen next Tuesday, a tentatively scheduled Special Town Meeting (if the Board of Finance approves emergency capital expenditures this evening), and budget workshops.

Also, the email address for directing questions to First Selectman Janet McCarty for her TV show, North Haven Update, is QuestionforJanet@aol.com, not what they put up on her first show, QuestionsforJanet@aol.com. Computers are unforgiving of the slightest typo.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Stop the Sniping and Support McCarty's Efforts to Get This Town on Track

The people who have been sniping at First Selectman Janet McCarty, calling her incapable of doing the job and worse, appear to have no idea about the state of the town government, as left to McCarty by the outgoing administration, whose First Selectman truly was either incapable or unwilling to do the job.

First, the budget is a complete mess, worse than people thought. We’re fortunate to have Ed Gomeau unraveling it, as I said in my last blog entry. McCarty describes it as a Russian doll problem: when you open up one problem, you find another problem inside, and another problem inside that. Finance Director Vincent Palmeri was a master, but unfortunately a master of hiding things, not of budgeting for a public organization.

Second, the personnel situation is a shambles (Palmeri was also the director of personnel). There appear to be no benchmarks for evaluating personnel. The overtime issue that came up at recent Board of Finance meetings, with respect to the Community Services Department, appears to be a problem throughout the town government. There are insufficient rules, insufficient monitoring, and insufficient incentives.

Third, the tax collection situation seems to have been let go by our last two Tax Collectors. Thousands of people, it turns out, hadn’t paid their automobile taxes, and our new Tax Collector, Alan Sturz, is now looking at the situation with our real estate and personal property taxes. People who got notices to pay long-outstanding auto taxes have been pouring into Town Hall. Not a popular move by a new administration, and not a help to getting work done, but you gotta do what your predecessors failed to do.

As for the Board of Selectmen meeting on Palmeri that everyone wants to have so badly (even though they didn’t seem to mind Kopetz letting Palmeri's situation go month after month while Palmeri was getting sick pay), there was a problem when Republican Selectman Michael Freda was going to be playing baseball in Florida next week, but he appears to have changed his mind, as you can read in his comments below, so that obstacle seems to be out of the way.

Fairness and patience seem to be lacking in too many North Haveners. Many people making comments here are not willing to recognize how hard it is to start any new job, and how much harder it is to take over a town government whose past administration provided almost no help in the transition, and which itself did a terrible job in some very important areas.

McCarty is working as hard and as long hours as anyone possibly could. I hope that people will stop spitting on her and hoping for her early demise, and instead start supporting her efforts. And those who see conspiracies everywhere can forget it: the Democrats aren’t organized enough to conspire.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Go Go Gomeau, or Getting the Budget Right

This week’s North Haven Citizen contains an article about some of what First Selectman Janet McCarty plans to do in 2008. I recommend you read it.

Her first priority is to present a transparent budget. And she’s backing that up by appointing the Board of Education Business Manager, Ed Gomeau, to be interim budget coordinator. From what I’ve heard about Mr. Gomeau (who has returned to North Haven after working elsewhere), this is a great decision. He will bring a new process and a new attitude to a system that has formerly been all Vincent Palmeri all the time, with the Board of Finance just going along with false numbers, illegal budget transfers, and little respect for the input of department heads (except for Joseph Ierardi, whose department's budget numbers somehow were the only ones on target).

This town should thank Mr. Gomeau for taking on this extra burden and sharing with us his expertise. He can’t perform miracles, but at least the Board of Finance and the Town Meeting will have the best possible budget to vote on.

We should also thank Ms. McCarty for continuing to talk openly about her plans for the year. It's not only new, but courageous, because it opens her up for attack as her plans don't all pan out as quickly as she (and we) would like.

Also in this week’s Citizen, it says that McCarty delayed the January 3 Board of Selectmen meeting because Palmeri’s lawyer was in Arizona, and that rescheduling the meeting has been hampered by her attempt to get Palmeri’s lawyer to attend the meeting.

Also of note in the Citizen is Republican Selectman Michael Freda’s statement that there will be “fundamental disagreements” between him and the Democratic Selectmen, and that he will deliver his criticism at future meetings. It’s interesting that, in all he wrote on this blog, there were no fundamental disagreements that I could see. I hope he doesn’t hold back his ideas for presentation at Board of Selectmen meetings, but instead shares them with citizens so that they can be discussed in advance. Not only can citizens add their take on his ideas, but with their input, he might find areas and means of compromise.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Need to Change the Relationship Between Town Board Members and Town Government

Without taking a position on who said what, the dispute between Fire Commissioner and Democratic Town Committee (DTC) chair Peter Criscuolo, Jr. and Republican Fire Commissioner chair Pat Nuzzolillo still says something very disconcerting about government in North Haven.

The question has been raised as to whether Nuzzolillo offered Criscuolo the Fire Commission chairmanship in return for Criscuolo using his DTC position and ties with Janet McCarty to get Fire Commissioner Michael Zuccarelli, Jr. the job as director of the Community Services and Recreation Department. It doesn’t appear that we’ll ever know.

What is still disconcerting is that a Republican official felt it was appropriate to call the DTC chair with an endorsement for an important and highly-paid town job. Nuzzolillo has apparently admitted that he did this, and only this.

First of all, this implies that the DTC chair could have an effect on the hiring of a department head, that even the most important jobs in town government are partisan in nature. Actually, it implies more specifically that this is how Republican officials think things work.

Why? Because this is the way things have worked for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, one recent holder of the RTC chairmanship was the holder of the position that the town is now trying to fill: Joseph Ierardi, someone hardly known for withholding his influence. His predecessor, Gary Johns, used his position to get himself a North Haven job he was not qualified for. With the Democrats in power, why should things change? Nuzzolillo must have thought.

Second, it is disconcerting that Nuzzolillo felt that working together on a volunteer commission was enough to cross our town’s contentious party lines to ask a favor for someone else on the commission. Why should work on a commission have anything to do with town government hiring, outside of the scope of the commission itself? And why should working together on a commission be enough for someone to recommend another for a job that has nothing to do with the work of the commission?

There’s a boundary problem here. There’s an idea that serving the town on its boards and commissions gives a person influence over the affairs of the administration of our town’s government. They should have absolutely nothing to do with one another. In fact, anyone who has been involved with the policy and oversight side of town government – that is, its boards and commissions – should not only not have special influence over or priority for jobs in town government, but should not even apply, especially in related areas.

For example, a Fire Commissioner should not apply for a job as a fire fighter in North Haven. Why? Because the Commissioner, in his role providing policy and oversight over the Fire Department, has special relations not only with the administrators of the department, but also with the other members of the Commission. No one can be seen as making an independent decision with respect to the Commissioner’s job application. And in addition, people should not be put in the position of having to possibly reject the job application of someone who will be providing oversight over them or working with them on policy issues.

This would apply to any position, from a Board of Finance member applying for a job in the Finance Department, to a Board of Education member applying for a job in the school system, especially an administrative job.

We’ll never know for sure whether Nuzzolillo actually tried to bribe Criscuolo. But we do know that Nuzzolillo’s concept of his role as Fire Commissioner, as it relates to jobs in town government, is inappropriate.

I don’t think that his concept of his role is anything but typical among North Haven Republican officials. Let’s hope that Democratic officials learn from this, and that it helps to change the way the people who run our town’s policy and oversight see their relationship with our town government’s administration.