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.
Interested in Fairfield's news, events, community bulletins, blogs and businesses? Sign up for the free Fairfield Patch daily newsletter, "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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