Numerous town officials, including First Selectman Vicki Tesoro, Economic and Community Development Director Rina Bakalar, Town Planner Rob Librandi and the Planning & Zoning Commission have been ordered to appear before the Freedom of Information Commission. The hearing, originally scheduled for April 11, has been rescheduled but is expected to take place in April.
The FOI hearing was prompted by a complaint filed by attorney and former First Selectman Timothy Herbst on behalf of John Callahan, Jennie Gleason and Sara Mayer, who are residents of the Woodland Hills condominium complex and relates to the proposed senior housing complex at 48 Monroe Tpke.
In his original complaint, Herbst stated that on Dec. 17 he had requested records of all communications among town officials about the proposed development from Jan. 1, 2018 to present. Town Clerk Suzanne Burr Monaco replied on Dec. 20, acknowledging receipt of the request and stating that the town would make a “good faith effort” to locate the records and would respond within “a reasonable time.” To date, Herbst said he has not received “one document” of his request.
Two weeks later, on Jan. 3, Herbst requested all correspondence among all town officials regarding an email sent by Republican Town Committee Chairman Joseph Pifko about a potential conflict of interest by an unnamed P&Z commissioner. Commission Chairman Fred Garrity acknowledged he was the commissioner in question, and that in his capacity as a consultant, he had created a training video for the company Tesoro’s husband works for. Garrity also read from a legal opinion that the work did not constitute a conflict, but the opinion itself was not entered into the public record, Herbst wrote. Tesoro did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
On Jan. 9, Monaco replied, acknowledging receipt of the new request and again stating the town would make a good faith effort to comply.
The crux of Herbst’s complaint is that the town imposed a moratorium on multi-family rental units two days after the P&Z approved a special permit application for 350 units of age-stricted housing at 48 Monroe Tpke. Town officials had discussed the proposed moratorium as early as October, but did not disclose that possibility at any of the hearings prior to the vote.
“Arguably, if the moratorium has been under consideration since October 2018, public records as defined by [FOI] exist,” Herbst wrote. “These documents were not provided to the general public to review and opine upon during the public hearing before a public agency.”
Similarly, Herbst wrote that the public had been denied a chance to review or comment upon Garrity’s legal opinion prior to the closing of public comment.