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Fairfield Selectmen Discuss Hiller's Resignation Agreement

Selectmen Kevin Kiley and Cristin McCarthy Vahey moved to vote on the agreement at the board's next meeting. Town Attorney Stanton Lesser said the contract is not under the board's jurisdiction.

While the Board of Selectmen moved to vote on the resignation agreement between First Selectman Michael Tetreau and former fiscal officer Paul Hiller, the action will likely amount to nothing.

Following a discussion of the agreement between Tetreau and selectmen Kevin Kiley and Cristin McCarthy Vahey, Kiley moved to add a vote on the contract to the board's Oct. 3 meeting.

"Good government would have dictated that this contract come before this board," Kiley said.

But Town Attorney Stanton Lesser warned that, in his legal opinion, a vote could be a waste of time.

"It's simply, in my view, that this is not something the board has jurisdiction over," Lesser said. "I think it's a valid and binding agreement and I don't think you have a right to void it."

Lesser added that he agreed with the legal opinion of Attorney Floyd Dugas, who was hired as outside counsel to draft the agreement between Hiller (whose resignation was effective Sept. 15) and Tetreau.

According to Dugas, Fairfield's town charter gives the First Selectman sole authority to appoint, terminate, and set the terms of employment for the town's Chief Fiscal Officer.

Still, Kiley maintained his motion to add the vote to the agenda and postpone it until the Oct. 3 meeting with the hope that new information would be shared with him and McCarthy Vahey before Oct. 3. McCarthy Vahey seconded his motion.

"To me, it's more important to find out if the town has been managed property and that the board informed, engaged, and brought into the process," Kiley said.

Tetreau told the board all of the information they could legally know was already in front of them, given the agreement's non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses that closed off public discussion of personnel matters.

"Given the angst and turmoil and questions that came of this agreement, I can't see doing another one of these types of contracts in the future," Tetreau said.

Though McCarthy Vahey voted in favor of putting the contract on the Oct. 3 agenda, she said she's spoken with attorneys around town who agreed with Lesser's opinion -- that the release and settlement pact is "enforceable, we are bound by as a town."

But she took issue with the salary increase Hiller will receive as part of the contract before he begins to collect pension from the town.

"This is a practice that should not be continued," she said, adding that they could review the charter as a start to discontinuing the policy.

The pension bump was in accordance with the town's department head benefit and early retirement program, Tetreau said.

"That's what we followed, that's how we operate," he added. "The benefits are consistent with what other department heads leaving due to an agreement, not voluntarily."

Kiley countered. "Even if you could defend it's legal, it's still not right," he said of the entire agreement and the events leading up to it.

"It's not the right way to run your town, your business, or treat your people."

Jane S. September 20, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Possibly what really needs to be uncovered and opened up which has been touched upon a few times in recent Patch articles & coverage, but no one has picked up on the significance of it yet, is the "Town Charter" . This document gives the power and authority to various individuals and at the same time violates the rights and authority of other town citizens. As well as disregards several federal laws and protections because the "Charter" was put in place before the federal laws were enacted and then never updated to incorporate them (because,that would change the balance of power) ... The other fascinating bit, is there is not anyone left who remembers the BIG Town Charter "Backroom" amendments & changes that occurred in the 70's - 80's that changed the towns political infrastructure... But now that the cat's out of the bag, maybe the Patch could do an investigative report on the historical changes & debate about the "Town Charter", it was a very big story and quite controversial at the time. The unfortunate problem is it will take longer than this coming election to really look at what transpired in the "Charter" to make the appropriate changes...Plus you will need an unbiased committee & work group to analyze the contents and its ramifications...
KEVIN DILLON September 20, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I have read the Town Charter. I see nothing within the Charter that gives Tetreau the right to dismiss the CFO without cause, nor do I see where he has the right to enter into the agreement he has entered into. I point you towards page 18 of the Charter, Article 6; C; 1) "All contracts to which the Town shall be a party shall be subject to approval of the Board of Selectmen, except contracts authorized to be made by or on behalf of the Board of Education. The Selectmen shall have the power to delegate their authority to other Town officers, employees, and bodies where the contract would be for a duration of less than one month and would involve an expenditure by or income to the Town of less than $10,000. "Contracts" shall mean all contractual relations of the Town, including, without limitation, purchase contracts, lease contracts, and service contracts. This requirement of approval by the Board of Selectmen shall not be construed to eliminate review by other persons or bodies where required by this Charter, by ordinance, or by the General Statutes." As I read this provision, the entire Board of Selectmen should have been involved, not just the 1st Selectman. None of the exclusions apply. This contract exceeds one month and is in excess of 10,000.00. For those who believe Tetreau had the authority under the charter to proceed as he did, please point to the provisions you are citing for this authority. I find none and believe he acted outside the authority given him.
Listen first September 20, 2012 at 09:10 PM
What if there WAS cause?
Jim Eastwood September 20, 2012 at 11:06 PM
To All Excelent comments !!!! Yes the Patch needs to look into the Charter, it's uses and it's abuses. For we need PROFESSIOAL Qualites over Politcal appointments especially in Heads of Departments !!! Keep up the Excellent discissions !! Have a Great Day !!
lbh September 20, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Does anyone remember Ken Flatto using this arguement when the controversy over the Metro Center contract came about? Mr Tetreau says he will never do a contract like this again? Didn't he criticize Flatto for doing essentially the same thing? And Cristin Vahey? She asked "lawyers around town?" Which lawyers? Did they see the actual contract? Were they paid by the town for their consultation?

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