Members of the Tuesday opened up the floor to discussion on the status of former Chief Fiscal Officer and finance board clerk Paul Hiller -- a conversation which covered topics ranging from the powers of the First Selectman to a previously memo signed by former First Selectman Kenneth Flatto.
Hiller was present for the discussion; his role as clerk for the Board of Finance ends Sept. 15, per the agreement between himself and First Selectman Michael Tetreau.
Tetreau, with the legal counsel of Attorney Floyd Dugas of the Milford firm Berchem, Moses & Devlin, explained Dugas' legal opinion on the powers of the First Selectmen as interpreted though Connecticut General Statutes and the town charter.
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First Selectman's Authority to Appoint, Terminate, and Set Employment Terms for CFO
Dugas' opinion is that the First Selectman, as Chief Executive Officer of the town, has the authority reserved to appoint, terminate, and set the terms of employment for the Chief Fiscal Officer, therefore Tetreau did not have to take the General Release and Settlement Agreement to the Board of Selectmen before he and Hiller signed it.
According to Tetreau, the First Selectman had some concerns over the position and wanted to make a change, so he began the conversations with Hiller that lead to the agreement and his resignation as CFO.
The finance board did not dispute Tetreau's authority to appoint or terminate the CFO, but speculated the legality of not presenting the agreement to the Board of Selectmen.
"The more we talk about this, the more it sounds like a legal dispute that should have gone before the Board of Selectmen," finance board member and former Selectman James Walsh said. "I don't understand why you tried to get away from the Board of Selectmen."
Fellow finance board member Ken Brachfeld agreed. "My problem is, why didn't this just go to the Board of Selectmen?"
Tetreau said that, simply, he followed the guidelines set by legal counsel -- that he had the reserved power to enter into the agreement on behalf of the town as First Selectman.
"The end result to me is that the whole problem is with the charter of the town of Fairfield," finance board member Robert Stone said, explaining he felt that there should be contracts and limitations for a position like CFO.
"Paul has been serving the town for many years. Tetreau cane into office and wanted to make a change, which is hard to do, so he sought legal advice," Stone said. "This is no reflection on Paul. Tetreau showed leadership, wanted to make a change -- I think we need to look at the charter."
Hiller's Role as Clerk for the Board of Finance
While charter reform wasn't something the board discussed at length, members pointed out that there was one aspect of the settlement that could have been interpreted as a breach of the town code.
"Why was the clerk of the Board of Finance included in this agreement?" Board of Finance Chair Tom Flynn said, referring to a role the board hired Hiller to undertake years ago. "That's a breach of the charter. You can't touch our clerk."
Dugas said that had Hiller been "unilaterally terminated" from his role as finance clerk by the First Selectman, than Flynn would have a valid point. But, he said, "they mutually agreed to the agreement," which meant Hiller agreed to leave the position.
Flynn told Hiller that he is encouraged to apply for the job when the board officially begins the search for a "new" clerk, if he is legally allowed to do so. Dugas was unsure Tuesday whether the board could rehire Hiller.
In the meantime, Town Controller Caitlyn Bosse will work as interim clerk.
'Benefit Summary for Non-Union Department Heads and Public Officials'
When the conversation moved to Hiller's pension, board members realized the memo attached to the agreement which detailed the pensions and benefits summary for non-union employees and department heads, was one they had never seen before.
The memo, an updated version of a 2005 policy, was signed by former First Selectman Flatto in 2011. Board members said they had never seen the memo and they don't believe it went before the RTM. Tetreau told the board he was unaware of the memo until he took office last year.
"This town has been through a heck of a lot," Flynn said, referring to the Metro Center debacle and other matters. "These all have an impact on town government."
"This process was, for lack of a better word, bungled," Flynn continued, regarding Hiller's resignation. "To say it was legal doesn't make it right, and it impacts our town government."