Herbst: Housing Authority actions after Storm Sandy are 'disturbing'

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I asked members of the emergency management team to detail for me all problems associated with the emergency response and relocation of residents from Stern Village to Madison Middle School.

The reports from the Office of Emergency Management and the Fire Marshal speak volumes. The problems encountered by our emergency responders is the direct result of systemic lack of due diligence on the part of the Trumbull Housing Authority.

In November, Town Attorney Robert Nicola and I met with Judith Stern, Chairwoman of the Trumbull Housing Authority. During this meeting, I communicated to Mrs. Stern the concerns of our emergency management team as it related to the response during Hurricane Sandy. I also communicated other concerns to Mrs. Stern as they relate to the housing authority. I advised Mrs. Stern that I believed the housing authority was not properly addressing the safety of the residents and I had no choice but to replace her and another housing authority member.

In the days and weeks that would follow, Mrs. Stern showed her true character and her clear lack of concern for the residents of Stern Village by placing politics ahead of people. Before leaving the authority, Mrs. Stern convened a secret meeting that was not properly noticed and in violation of the Trumbull Town Charter. The Housing Authority spent most of their meeting in executive session.

When they emerged, their attorney, State Sen. Anthony Musto, produced a prepared contract document extending the Executive Director's contract another two years. They also placed additional provisions in the contract that favored the employee at the expense of the Housing Authority. They signed the contract as soon as they emerged from executive session.

This conduct demonstrates that the chairwoman of the Housing Authority worked in concert with Attorney Musto to draft the provisions of this contract extension before even taking it before the other board members. The terms of the contract were a done deal before this illegal meeting even took place.

The Housing Authority did not even accord the residents of Stern Village with the opportunity to attend a public hearing to voice their opinions on the matter at hand. And, as we have learned from the request for document production, the authority was not even providing a performance evaluation for the executive director over the last several years.

What is disturbing in all of this is that the Housing Authority's attorney, a state lawmaker, advised his clients to participate in an illegal meeting to approve the contract he drafted that was in fact so unconscionable, any rational person reading it would conclude was not a contract in the best interests of the Trumbull Housing Authority. The actions of the former Housing Authority and Sen. Musto were deceitful, duplicitous and deliberate.

The housing authority governs Stern Village and has a responsibility to act in the best interests of their residents. These residents are also Senator Musto's constituents. The former Housing Authority and Senator Musto have a moral obligation to answer for their conduct and explain why they acted in such an unscrupulous manner.

Read Anthony Musto's response here.