Letter: Appointment violates intent of policy

To the Editor:

I am one of the many Trumbull residents who have raised questions about the appointment of Mr. Herbst (the elder) as interim Athletic Director at Trumbull High.

In doing so, I have not said a word disparaging Mr. Herbst’s work ethic or his 38 years of service at Trumbull High School, nor do I have issues with him collecting his pension. As an eight-year veteran of the Board of Education, I am familiar with the process and know a pension is one of the few perks of a career in that field. I am also aware that it is common in the field for administrators to retire from a position, and then later apply for, interview for, and accept a DIFFERENT position and collect a salary in that DIFFERENT position.

There are two things that make the current situation unique:

• The Trumbull Schools approved Mr. Herbst’s retirement effective Friday, January 31; and then immediately appointed him to the SAME position, starting Monday, Feb. 3, and collecting over $600/day (that’s $3,150/week) to do the SAME job he had been doing the previous week.

• There is a Staff Conflict of Interest policy that reads, “Appointments to paid positions in the Trumbull school system may not be made to members of the immediate family (spouse, children, and relatives living in the household) of any Board of Education member.

I understand that the administration received a legal opinion that the appointment of Mr. Herbst did not violate the policy. All that tells me is that (a) the Board of Education knew it was in possible jeopardy, or they would not have had to seek the opinion in the first place; and (b) the policy was not written properly to achieve its intent.

Most people reviewing the policy and this situation would agree that Mr. Herbst was appointed effective Feb. 3, that he is in a paid position, and that he is a family member of the current chair of the Board of Education. So while the rehiring may have been legal, it certainly violates the intent of the policy.

Some say that calling attention to this is hypocritical. What I think is hypocritical is a Board of Education that cuts hundreds of thousands of dollars from the superintendent’s request (much of it from the teacher salary account), and then hires the most expensive person to fill a position that could have been covered by existing employees until a permanent replacement could be hired.

Lisa Labella