First Selectman Timothy Herbst today called accusations of cronyism, surrounding the hiring of Stern Village interim Executive Director Harriet Polansky, “outrageous” and “political nonsense,” meant to distract from serious issues at the senior housing complex that needed to be addressed.
Polansky, who started work this week, was chosen by the Trumbull Housing Authority to serve as acting director, replacing Harry Wise.
The first selectman said that while his mother, Deborah Herbst, was a former colleague of Polansky’s husband, Harvey Polansky, he has known the family for years, because they are long-time Trumbull residents. But, he said, that has no effect on her getting an appointment form the Housing Authority.
“Ms. Polansky is a registered Democrat,” Herbst said. “She has not donated one penny to my campaigns and I don’t know if she ever voted for me and, frankly, I don’t care. I care if she is going to go in there and do the job.”
Herbst said Polansky stepped forward for the position because she read in local papers about the issues at Stern Village and wanted to help.
Hurricane Sandy revealed several problems at Stern Village, Herbst said. After Tropical Storm Irene, the town’s emergency management director had recommended getting generators at Stern Village, but that never happened. During Sandy, the community lost power for several days and since the complex runs on electric heat, many residents had to be relocated to Madison Middle School.
One resident who died during the storm was at first misidentified because lists were outdated. In December, the first selectman did not reappoint two members of the Trumbull Housing Authority board and another member resigned.
“People critical of the new Housing Authority don’t mention the reports from the emergency management director or the fire marshal, which reveal serious deficiencies,” he said.
He said the Housing Authority, as it was before the storm, was “not engaged.”
“I cannot compromise the health, safety and welfare of any Trumbullite.”
Polansky, who has about 20 years of marketing and management experience, is moving forward with getting generators and updating emergency procedures, Herbst said. The Housing Authority is also looking to computerize all documents and is coming up with a capital plan for improvement.
“It’s very easy to throw rocks and engage in political subterfuge, but it’s just distracting from the real problems at hand,” Herbst said.