Dems say robo-call raises questions
Last week’s special election may have resulted in a win for Democrats, but members of the party say a robo-call made by First Selectman Timothy Herbst pre-election is still raising questions.
In a press release this week Democrats said Herbst used the Stern Village robo-call system a few weeks ago to tell residents he would hold a special meeting at the complex on July 14. At that meeting was Board of Finance candidate Bill Haberlin, and Democrats said Herbst used that meeting to promote Haberlin, State Rep. Dave Rutigliano and state Senate candidates Rick Costantini and Marilyn Moore.
“This was clearly a political event,” said Mary Beth Thornton, vice chairman of the Trumbull Democratic Town Committee. “Tim took the opportunity to promote candidates he is supporting in these elections and to criticize others he opposes. He didn’t invite any member of the Board of Finance to the meeting except for Bill Haberlin. We would just like to know if Tim used the town robo-call system for campaign purposes and hope he will answer the question without requiring a FOIA request.”
Herbst this week defended his call and said he did not once tell anyone to vote for GOP candidates. He encouraged anyone interested to get a copy of the robo-call script.
“The message was very clear in warning our elderly population of heat conditions, as has been past practice,” Herbst said. “The message encouraged them to use the community room as a cooling center.”
Herbst said the message also mentioned he would be visiting Stern Village and any questions residents had were welcome. Herbst said Stern Village Director Harriet Polansky made sure residents knew the event was “apolitical.”
“Bill Haberlin attended and observed but he did not speak during the event and people were not told to vote for him,” Herbst said.
Herbst said the meeting discussed a number of issues, including road paving, tax relief, plans for a new senior center and more. Herbst said he did mention Marilyn Moore, who is a Democrat who will face Sen. Anthony Musto in the August primary, Rutigliano and Costantini, who is also running for state senate, but only to note they had said they could try to reach out to get funding to pave roads.
“This is nothing but a veiled attempt to play victim and create an issue where there is none,” Herbst said of Democrats.
The press release from Democrats also points out Herbst said he would call on the state Bond Commission to seek money to pave roads at Stern Village.
“However, he demonstrated a troubling lack of understanding of the process, and the actual current situation with state funds for paving roads,” Democrats said. “The Bond Commission generally does not provide funding for local road paving.”
Musto also criticized the first selectman for not making Stern Village roads a priority.
“If Mr. Herbst really wanted this area paved, it would have been paved already,” said Musto. “He has had access to $1.1 million in LoCIP funds available and unused by the town, as well as almost $2 million in TAR money for Trumbull through 2015.”
Herbst, however, said he simply discussed looking for grants and possible funding sources from the state. Herbst said that Stern Village paving is a priority but not one that made the list this year. He said in the past that the Trumbull Housing Authority and leadership didn’t make roads a priority and kicked the can. However, the town had to make certain roads in greater need a priority this year.
“The roads at Stern Village are bad but there are several roads in town that are worse, including Chestnut Hill, Middlebrooks, Blackhouse,” Herbst said.