Letter: Disappointing to see others motivated by partisanship

To the Editor:

I feel an obligation to address the outrageous comments of former Board of Education member Lisa Labella in a recent news article. Mrs. Labella continues to demonstrate how she places politics ahead of the well-being of the children in the Trumbull Public School System.

In July of 2012, the Board of Finance approved funding for the roof replacement at Madison Middle School. Despite this funding being in place for more than a year, the then Facilities Manager for the Board of Education, AFB Construction Management, had not started planning, requests for proposals or design for the new roof. In July of 2013, school officials, including our newly appointed Superintendent, reached out to the Town because teachers and school administrators had identified a wall separating from the building. On July 22, 2013, the Town’s engineers concluded that an unsafe condition existed and that immediate action would have to be taken to make the building safe. With school opening in less than six weeks, there would be no way to fix this problem and open school on time without a bid waiver. A well-respected company that previously performed construction services on our school buildings, including the construction of our early childhood learning center was recommended. This was thoroughly vetted by the Public Works Director and Finance Director. My administration makes no apology for taking appropriate action to make a school building safe for children, teachers and administrators while insuring that school started on time.

More than a year after funding had been approved to fix the roof at Madison Middle School, no action had been taken. This same facilities manager also approved the payment of $972,000 to various contractors (including the contractor Mrs. Labella attacks in her comments) to remove snow from our school buildings without a bid and without a formal bid waiver. In fact, payments were made to various contractors without the former school superintendent or business manager even knowing that the checks were cut. Mrs. Labella had nothing to say about the ethics of this matter when she sat on the Board of Education. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the facilities manager in question donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Trumbull Democratic Town Committee, which financed Mrs. Labella’s campaigns for public office.

Our School Superintendent, Dr. Gary Cialfi, is to be commended for completely revamping the School Facilities Department and hiring an outstanding new director, Mark Deming. Together, they are bringing the necessary reforms to make our school buildings safe and secure.

It is disappointing to see some people so motivated by partisanship, that they question the integrity of contractors and officials for both the town and the Board of Education, if it means scoring a cheap political shot. I issue this challenge to Mrs. Labella and others that exhibit similar behavior. Stop hiding behind your computer screens and press releases. If you believe that unethical conduct is occurring, then file a complaint with the Trumbull Ethics Commission. I trust them to make the appropriate ruling, rather than those that are motivated by partisanship.

Timothy M. Herbst

First Selectman,

Town of Trumbull