A blistering letter from one former first selectman to another set off a chain reaction that could land the town\u2019s Police Commission in a state Freedom of Information hearing.The issue is a zoning change that cleared the way for a senior housing development at the former United Healthcare property on Monroe Turnpike. Attorney Timothy Herbst, who represents three residents of the Woodland Hills condominium complex across Route 111 from the proposed senior development, accused Police Commission Chairman Raymond Baldwin and the other commissioners of meddling in the proceedings, besmirching the head of the town\u2019s police union, and conducting an illegal commission meeting via email.In a letter dated May 22, Herbst wrote that Baldwin and the Police Commission had interfered in the zoning case in crafting a letter to the Planning & Zoning Commission back in December before the P&Z approved the zone change. In the letter Chief Michael Lombardo and then-Chairman Angelo Magliocco disputed Sgt. Robert Coppola\u2019s testimony to the commission that the Police Department\u2019s manpower was stretched thin. Coppola testified under subpoena from Herbst, whose clients opposed the zoning change.In their response, which was also published in the Trumbull Times, Magliocco and Lombardo stated that Coppola\u2019s testimony did not reflect the position of the police chief or commission.\u201cThe Trumbull Police Commission is in constant communication with the chief regarding current and future staffing needs,\u201d the two wrote. \u201cThe safety of the public is and always will be our number one priority and all police shifts are staffed at the required levels.\u201dBut it was a series of emails between commissioners that Herbst read April 21, while reviewing documents of a Freedom of Information request he had filed against First Selectman Vicki Tesoro and the P&Z commissioner, that ignited the latest battle.\u201cThis document review also revealed the Machiavellian actions that you took in holding an illegal meeting of the Police Commission,\u201d Herbst wrote. \u201cSpecifically, your comments besmirched Sgt. Robert Coppola, an eighteen-year veteran of the force and the current Police Union President.\u201dIn the email exchange, Baldwin, Commissioner Lisa Labella and Lombardo discussed Coppola\u2019s comments. Baldwin told the others that Lombardo \u201cvehemently\u201d denied response times were a problem.\u201cSince the days I was on the TPD, the one thing our department has always been noted for is our quick response time to emergencies,\u201d Baldwin wrote. \u201cAs First Selectman, and in the short time I've been on the Commission, officer response time has never been an issue or concern. Coppola overstepped his authority and overstated the situation.\u201dLombardo later clarified that he believed Coppola had been referring to EMS calls, not police, in his comments about response time. But Coppola\u2019s comments about the department\u2019s manpower being stretched also drew ire.\u201cThe Chief and Commission assess and allocate resources, not the union,\u201d Baldwin wrote. \u201cCoppola is not a spokesman for the TPD.\u201dBaldwin, who had served as the union president while a member of the Police Department, said he viewed Coppola\u2019s comments as a union leader advocating for the members.\u201cI would have done the same when I headed the union,\u201d he said. \u201cBut we (the commission) do not believe it is the place of the union head to testify to P&Z about manpower levels.\u201dCoppola, in a written response to the commission dated May 31, took exception to what he called questions about his credibility and misrepresentations about his testimony in the email exchange. "We raised concerns about the impact of a proposed multi-unit development (with residential and medical components) relative to current police staffing levels," he wrote. "Absent additional officers, especially on the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, it\u2019s indisputable that emergency calls emanating from a new complex would leave us short-handed when other calls come in. We cannot be in two places at once. This is a matter of public safety, plain and simple."After receiving Herbst\u2019s letter, Baldwin consulted Town Attorney Daniel Schopick, who advised him that the emails between commission members could constitute a commission meeting. In response, the commission at its May 14 meeting placed the emails and discussion of Herbst\u2019s letter on the agenda. The meeting minutes indicate that by holding the discussion, the commission considered that the emailed correspondence was now part of the public record.\u201cThe emails and so forth are now part of the minutes of that meeting. Everything that was discussed is documented,\u201d Commission Clerk Vivian Munoz wrote in the minutes.But Herbst also disputes whether the ex post facto meeting record truly documents everything that was discussed, stating that Baldwin selectively omitted some of the email communications from the May 14 agenda. Baldwin said he did not know what Herbst was referencing.Herbst, who concluded his letter with a statement that he planned to file an FOI complaint against the commission, said he had seen the alleged missing documents during the April 21 Town Hall visit.Baldwin brushed aside the threat of an FOI complaint and possible hearing.\u201cThe potential FOI remedy would be to order us to create a public record of the discussion, which we\u2019ve already done,\u201d he said.