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Fairfield RTM Has Its Say on Tetreau/Hiller Agreement

First Selectman Michael Tetreau faced the Representative Town Meeting Monday after being quizzed by other selectmen, Board of Finance at previous meetings.

It was the Representative Town Meeting's turn Monday to question First Selectman Michael Tetreau's settlement agreement with former Chief Fiscal Officer Paul Hiller.

After being quizzed by the Board of Finance and his fellow selectmen at previous meetings, Tetreau stood before the nearly 50 town representatives and explained the legal opinion on the First Selectman's authority over the CFO position as vested in the town charter.

But several of the RTM's members were not happy with the explanation or the way the situation with Hiller -- who, since his resignation was announced on Aug. 1, has been hired as the fiscal officer for Shelton -- panned out.

"I never imagined when I asked for the status of the CFO two months ago that we'd be here, like this, tonight," RTM Majority Leader David Becker, R-1, said. "There's been a lot of concern about the transparency with this situation."

RTM members questioned Tetreau's decision to not include his fellow selectmen Kevin Kiley and Cristin McCarthy Vahey in the proceedings and negotiations that lead to the general release and settlement agreement between Tetreau and Hiller.

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Under the settlement, Hiller will receive benefits outlined in a department head benefits summary and a confidentiality clause precludes either party from discussing the personnel affairs that lead to the former CFO's resignation.

"There was no approval process, no discussion," Joe Palmer, R-4, said. "There should have been involvement from the Board of Selectmen."

Palmer added that he felt McCarthy Vahey and Kiley could have been briefed during the two weeks Hiller was on paid administrative leave while he, Tetreau, and legal counsel negotiated the terms of the resignation and settlement.

Tetreau maintained the First Selectman's authority to appoint, terminate, and set the terms of employment for the town's CFO. He explained he sought outside legal counsel -- that opinion was then vetted by Town Attorney Stanton Lesser -- because "the charter and human resource law is more complex for those who don't deal with it every day, and I wanted to follow the rules."

Outside counsel in the form of Floyd Dugas, a labor-relations attorney from the firm Berchem, Devlin & Moses in Milford, advised the confidentiality and non-disparagement clause is included in this kind of resignation pact.

John Mitola, D-2, agreed.

"The agreement here has a confidentiality clause so [Tetreau] can't discuss why he did what he did," Mitola said. "The Freedom of Information law does not included discussing personnel matters in public session."

The sentiment was echoed by Kevin Hoffkins, D-7.  "The confidentiality clause is doing Hiller a favor to keep his personnel issues private. Just because you work for a government does not mean your personnel file should be made public."

But some members, like Gaylord Meyer, R-1, felt that Tetreau's "increasing concerns" he cited with Hiller were a cause for concern and should be expanded upon.

"I don't know what those increasing concerns are, but as a taxpayer I want an answer and I want to know why you didn't confide in the Board of Selectmen," Meyer said.

 

For more stories on former CFO Paul Hiller's resignation and the accompanying general release and settlement agreement, see:

  • Hiller to Resign as CFO of Fairfield
  • GOP Seeks Answers in Wake of CFO's Resignation
  • Tetreau Responds to Concerns Over CFO's Resignation
  • Fairfield Selectmen Discuss Hiller's Resignation Agreement
Sherri Steeneck September 25, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Personnel issues were never brought to the Board of selectman unless there was a pending lawsuit during the almost 4yrs that I was there. You may not like what he (the 1st selectman)did, but he had authority to do it, he sought a legal opinion on a complex issue before he did it and chose OUTSIDE council first to keep it at arm's length. Also, if any employee isn't cutting it, unless they committed a crime, there is no need for taxpayers to know what happened. Its a job. The employee had the right to appeal, he chose not to. Mr. Tetreau was elected by a majority of the voters to be our CEO and make decisions that are in the best interest of the town. Stop beating a dead horse. I am sure that if he had it to do over again, he would not sign a gag order and probably would not release the info just before going on a vacation where he didn't have cell service for two weeks.
Kevin J. Lennon September 25, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Thank you Ms. Steeneck for your reasoned comment, based on experience, on this matter.
Chuck E. Arla September 25, 2012 at 01:19 PM
". . . . employee isn't cutting it..." Slander!
checkers September 25, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Our former First Selectman excused some of his egregious decisions by claiming he also had a legal opinion to validate his actions. The Supreme Court found otherwise. Mr. Tetreau feigned shock and awe over the clandestine activities of his predecessor, and promised honesty and transparency. A brick wall is not transparent.
KEVIN DILLON September 25, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I've read the charter and have posted some of its' provisions in earlier articles. I've yet to see anyone point to the provision in the charter that gives the First Selectman the unilateral right to enter into a contract without input from the other selectman. You can quibble over whether he has the right to remove Mr. Hiller, or "accept" his resignation. But the charter is quite clear about how contracts can be entered into. Doing it on his own is not one of the methods.
Dollar Bill September 25, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Are ya kidding Sherri. What employee in his/her right mind would appeal a golden no wait a diamond studded platnium parachute like the one Mr. Hiller received? Dead horse?? Sure Paul Hiller wasn't cutting it, you gotta be kidding me. The ramifications of this amazing severance agreement to the pension is yet to be seen. We all still know Mr. Hiller was let go with his pockets full because he would not play ball with Tetreau and his 401 ideas of retirement plans for town workers. Even though Tetreau knows nothing about retirement pensions and Mr. Hiller has said over and over again that the towns pensions are in fine shape.
checkers September 25, 2012 at 06:37 PM
It has become more and more apparent that the removal of Mr. Hiller was not for the benefit of the Town of Fairfield, but rather, for the benefit of Mr. Tetreau. Mr. Hiller was not taking this Town in the wrong direction. He suffered from charachter and honesty, and those traits conflict with those of the current administration.
OneFairfield September 25, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Let's be honest for a change. Hiller made a lot of blunders starting with the Train station. He was also in charge when we were put on negative watch by the rating agency. He was also CFO during the Madoff affair. And what about the million dollar shortfall in the budget coming up at the last minute? Mr Hiller served the town well for many years but a change was needed. In retrospect he should have offered ( as well as other town dept heads) his resignation when a new First Selectman was elected. Let's wish him well and move on.
Dollar Bill September 25, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Thankfully Tetreau thought so highly of him he gave him a diamond studded platnium parachute. Oh yea Fairfield needed a change. A bit of explanation regarding Hillers involvement with the train station would be nice.
Creeky September 26, 2012 at 12:32 AM
It's only natural that all will question this. A lack of transparency in the previous administration was a big problem for the town. And, it was divisive. Part of Mike's platform was a move away from this sort of thing. There were a lot of other approaches he could have taken. This one appears unwise. In the end, it only supports the opinion that more and more share: there is far too much power centered in the First Selectman's office. It leaves us with no defense against impropriety, and smells of tyranny. Mike didn't have to go public on this. He could have a relationship with the opposition, and let them know, this change is healthy for the town, for reasons A, B, and C. Instead, he just gets their backs up, and reminds them, too much power. If Mike wants charter reform to reduce that power, he should keep it up. A couple more of these, and it won't be hard to go around him with referendum. And with the animosity ever increasing--if/when he loses, he'll lose that much more. As for Hiller? We've been piling debt upon debt, and refinancing old debt, rather than pay it down. Now times are tough, and expenses are exploding, and we've no room to move, with little credit left (proven by the ratings issue). I'm just not seeing how Hiller was good for Fairfield. Sherri, from what we've seen thus far, if he had to do it over again, he'd probably do it the same. Mike makes it clear, no one questions Mike.

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