Herbst cries foul over attorney rules

Is First Selectman Vicki Tesoro denying Michael Herbst the same courtesy that Tesoro herself was accorded from Herbst’s son during her run for first selectman? That is the claim that Herbst made in a campaign statement and email to Town Attorney Daniel Schopick.

“Two weeks ago I contacted First Selectman Tesoro’s office to advise them that I would be setting up meetings with various town department heads,” Herbst wrote in a statement. “My goal from these meetings would be to get a better understanding of how some of these departments operate as well as major goals and objectives for the coming year. When I contacted [Police Chief Michael Lombardo] to arrange a meeting, I was advised that in accordance with First Selectman Tesoro’s instructions, a town attorney would need to be present at our meeting.”

Herbst claimed such rules were “adversarial, not civil” and created “an unnecessary legal expense.” He said that two years ago former First Selectman Tim Herbst, Michael Herbst’s son, had allowed Republican Paul Lavoie, Democrat Vicki Tesoro and petition candidate Michael Redgate to freely meet with department heads.

Tesoro pointed out that Herbst was perfectly welcome to meet with town department heads, but that if such meetings took place on town time and town property she wanted a town attorney present.

“It’s ludicrous,” she said. “He wants to meet with department heads on town time for a partisan purpose.”

She said a town attorney’s presence would protect all parties from having the conversations stray into potentially confidential areas and cited the history of lawsuits between Trumbull and numerous other parties during the previous Herbst administration.

“Given the past history of litigation, we need to protect everyone involved,” she said. “We can’t go back to those days.”

But what of Michael Herbst’s claim that Tim Herbst had allowed unfettered access to town officials to the three candidates in 2017? That situation was different because he was not running for re-election, Tesoro said. During the 2017 campaign Tim Herbst had issued statements that singled Tesoro out for criticism, and the topic of Town Hall meetings with department heads was not discussed between herself and Herbst, she said.

“I never called and asked to come into Town Hall and meet with department heads,” she said.

Redgate confirmed he had spoken to Tim Herbst about such meetings - and that some had taken place.

“It was all very informal, I knew a lot of them anyway from my work and my involvement with the [Trumbull Pisces swim team],” he said. He added that the meetings that had occured had taken place outside of Town Hall.

“We would just meet for coffee,” he said. “There were no town attorneys present.”

Lavoie was not immediately available for comment.

Tesoro said she was willing to extend the exact same courtesy to Michael Herbst that Redgate had received.

“If he wants to meet and have coffee then everyone is perfectly welcome to do so,” she said. “In fact, he is welcome to come in and meet with them in Town Hall, but with a town attorney present to make sure nothing improper is discussed.

On Monday Herbst did in fact meet with Lombardo — at 10 a.m. in police headquarters, and with Town Attorney Daniel Schopick present. The meeting had been productive, Herbst said, but Schopick’s presence was unnecessary, he added.