Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Why the Town's Legal Bills Are So High...

Last night your scribe was treated to a full disclosure of the reasons that the RTM has to approve some $450,000 in additional spending for the Law Department during the current fiscal year, and he thought he might pass along some of the information to you, dear taxpayer.

Apparently there are three cases that keep pushing the meter up. One is that of Paul Kempner, the elderly cyclist from Stamford who refused to pay an entry fee at Tod's Point. The Greenwich Gestapo arrested him, issuing him a summons to pay $97, but when the case reached the court, State's Attorney Steve Weiss (who grew up in Greenwich) called it "silly" and the charges were dropped. The Town then presented Kempner with a bill for his "visits" at $10 a pop; he paid $27, the price of a beach card, and ignored the rest. The Town was considering taking legal action against him when some anonymous residents chipped in to pay the rest of his "bill".

But now he has taken legal action against the Town for violating his rights and for violating the intent of the 2002 State Supreme Court decision, and so far it has cost us some $135,000 and counting. As Town Counsel Wayne Fox explained it, the Town hires outside counsel with expertise in certain areas; this was, of course, true in the original beach lawsuit brought by Brendan Leydon, and continues to be so today. Why the Town continues to waste money on what appears to be a non-problem - we have emphatically not been inundated by furriners since the State Supreme Court ordered us to open the beaches to all comers - is a puzzlement for your scribe, but apparently some major principle is at stake here, and so the money spigot has been turned on. The fact that Kempner, like all other senior citizens, is now entitled to use the beach for free would seem to make the whole thing moot; however, the RTM will vote to approve funds for this expenditure next Monday.

Next we have the case brought by several members of the Greenwich Gestapo alleging racial discrimination within the department. Having been rather viciously maltreated by some of the black members of the GG, your scribe is prepared to believe that if there is racial prejudice in the cop shop, it seems to go both ways. Total taxpayer costs to date for outside counsel: $350,000.

And then there's the bundle of joy dropped by the Department of Justice on the Town in the form of a subpoena for all information and documents about the Town's purchasing practices. Oh, my, dear reader, do you think there might be corruption in Town Hall? I am shocked, shocked, I tell you!

This one could be a doozy. Wayne mentioned possible "white collar crime" and indictments of as yet unnamed individuals (your scribe could take a pretty good guess at a few of the names, at least). Never let it be said, dear reader, that karma does not prevail in the end. It seems likely that the ungodly in Town Hall will get theirs, but not before you and I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in defending them. Aren't we the lucky taxpayers?

For it seems to be a Greenwich habit to spend our dollars defending the law-breakers on the Town's payroll. Your scribe has had numerous personal experiences of observing this phenomenon; people who in some other municipality would have been fired outright are defended tooth and nail. This knee-jerk reaction of "circling the wagons" is a long-standing part of the Greenwich mentality, and it shows no signs of going away anytime soon.

Wayne shared some other recent expenditures as well. The Honulik case, which complains of favoritism by Jimmy Wawa in the GG promotion process (can you believe such a thing might be possible, dear reader? Are you not also shocked, shocked to hear of this allegation?), has already cost us $66,000, and will be going to trial - at considerable additional expense - this spring. Why Jimbo Lash didn't just fire Jimmy Wawa, as 97% of the GG obviously wanted him to do, remains a mystery. Think of all the money and headaches we could have saved!

Costs in the Peterson case are some $90,000. Wayne stated that there were "mistakes by the police," that "they said things they shouldn't have," and "did not do the job they should have done." Oh, my! More shock! The mind reels in disbelief. Whoever would have thunk that the GG was incompetent? Or, more to the point, that their incompetence would have cost us so much?

Other cases that continue to bleed the Town purse are the Romig case (the dead body in the Prospect Street fire that the firemen didn't discover until the next day), and the Little case involving a fireman injured when an allegedly impaired (by too many beers) fire chief made a bad call at the Davis Avenue fire. Why the Town doesn't just admit that "mistakes" were made instead of pouring more money down the drain defending the indefensible remains a mystery, to this observer, at least.

Well, that's an overview of Item 16 on the agenda for Monday's Town meeting. Needless to say, your scribe does not intend to vote in favor of this item, but he may be the only one who doesn't. Even the RTM, alas, is not immune from the Greenwich mentality.


Blogger Sarah Darer Littman said...

Wow. And to think I could have been a contenda...


I do so love to read your witty descriptions of what does on in the bowels of Town Hall.

March 12, 2007 12:49 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

Dear Scribe William,

You asked, "Why Jimbo Lash didn't just fire Jimmy Wawa, as 97% of the GG obviously wanted him to do, remains a mystery."

Not so, oh great one. I shall not advocate for, or against, the removal of the Chief of the "GG", but state only the facts.

The Connecticut General Statutes are very clear on this matter, in Sec. 7-278 reads as follows:
No active head of any police department of any town, city or borough shall be dismissed unless there is a showing of just cause by the authority having the power of dismissal and such person has been given notice in writing of the specific grounds for such dismissal and an opportunity to be heard in his own defense, personally or by counsel, at a public hearing before such authority. Such public hearing, unless otherwise specified by charter, shall be held not less than five nor more than ten days after such notice. Any person so dismissed may appeal within thirty days following such dismissal to the superior court for the judicial district in which such town, city or borough is located. Service shall be made as in civil process. Said court shall review the record of such hearing, and, if it appears upon the hearing upon the appeal that testimony is necessary for an equitable disposition of the appeal, it may take evidence or appoint a referee or a committee to take such evidence as it directs and report the same to the court with his or its findings of fact, which report shall constitute a part of the proceedings upon which the determination of the court shall be made. The court, upon such appeal, and after a hearing thereon, may affirm the action of such authority, or may set the same aside if it finds that such authority acted illegally or arbitrarily, or in the abuse of its discretion, with bad faith, malice, or without just cause.

-Evan L. Delman

March 15, 2007 10:45 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Ah, the mystery is solved! Jimmy Wawa has job security, and thus does not serve, like most other department heads, at the pleasure of the First Selectman. Who'da thunk the Association of Connecticut Police Chiefs had such clout with the State legislature?

Thanks for the info, Evan!

March 15, 2007 12:52 PM  

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