Friday, October 5, 2007

FOI-GATE IN NEW FAIRFIELD

Just when all of us thought the Town Hall Freedom of Information shenanigans were finally and mercifully over ~ we were WRONG!

John Hodge just instituted a lawsuit in the Danbury Superior Court against both the Freedom of Information Commission and also the two ladies who recently won their complaints against him. The latest of those complaints resulted in Hodge being personally fined by the commission for repeated violations. But sue he must and thereby force two citizens to spend their own money to defend themselves. Isn’t that just peachy? What a guy!

Numerous faxes have been sent to Mr. Hodge asking if he intends to pay for the attorney fees in this lawsuit. They have all been ignored. That tells me that New Fairfield’s Town Attorney will be running up John Hodge’s legal defense bill at our expense. But wait! “It won’t cost us taxpayers a dime!” Where have we heard that before? It was stated again this week at a BOS meeting. The convoluted logic is part of Hodgenomics and says that since Town Consul is on a retainer basis, our Town Attorney will be doing an infinite amount of legal work for a fixed price. Wow! What a deal ~ or is it? The dots do not connect.

It sure looks like Mr. Hodge is using the Town Attorney, who is paid by taxpayer dollars, to fight the personal fine that was levied upon him. This will be a very lengthy and costly lawsuit if it is not thrown out as being frivolous by the Superior Court. Isn’t that just ducky?

Next month New Fairfield voters can change the two year continuum of Town Hall malarkey, deception and the “my way or the highway” administrative style by voting John Hodge out of office.

Doug Thielen

New Fairfield

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hodgenomics surfaces again ...

From: Peggy Katkocin [mailto:pegk12650@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, September 28, 2007 11:51 AM
To:
Subject: Hodgenomics surfaces again...

..missed you last night ...however, John has given me some fodder for a column... I pushed on the FOI issue... how does this serve the town? John's answer" it's my right" and the ever popular " it is not costing the taxpayers any money it is in Keating's retainer."

He still never addressed what the outcome would be that would benefit the citizens of New Fairfield Also on his money back to the town... I asked Jay Waterman where the unexpended funds came from... it comes to about $420,000.

Jay stated that it related to payroll savings,e.g. an employee on disability receives 2/3 pay and we pay no associated payroll costs, FICA, medicare etc. Also a position was not filled, savings there. there was a delay in filling another position, savings there..... this is not management of the budget. Also the $619,000 in unexpected revenue came from real estate tax and interest income due to investments made by Phil Cammarano..I still don't see John's role in this windfall, but he and Ron are claiming their fiscal prowess and taking the bows. Feel free to share this with others. I am also waiting for the letters and questions... he didn't tell the truth 2 yrs ago, he is not telling the truth now.

Also the lawn sign thing is a diversion to attack Tom and Roger as the RTC has no issue to criticize them for and as you know, they are talented at creating issues where none exist.

take care Peggy

Letter to BoF: HVAC System at Squantz Pond Firehouse

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Peggy Katkocin
To: Names blocked upon request
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2007 14:02:07 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: HVAC system at Squantz Pond firehouse

Dear BOF,

At the 9/27 BOS meeting I asked Jay Waterman how we arrived at the $400,000 in unexpended budget funds this past fiscal year and when did he know he had this money?

Jay referred to the employees on disability receiving 2/3 pay with none of the associated costs, FICA, Medicare etc., also there is less overtime for state troopers and police in addition to some other areas .

It struck me that John had this $400,000 back in July when he came to you on the HVAC system. He could have directly requested that you, by transfers, approve the expenditure of the $90,000 to cover the system , and there would still be monies coming back to the town.

I brought this up to John who insisted that it was "never about the money."!!
As I recall all of your questions related to the expenditure.

When I asked Willie Burger, the Squantz Co pres who circulated the petition why he did it, he replied that it was because he was told that the BOF would not approve the funds.

When asked why he signed the petition, Jim Mckeon replied that it was because it was explained to him that the firemen needed the money for a new ac/heating system.

Now what has happened? All of the divisiveness and discord that has emerged from this request and the petition and the legal opinions, and the criticism aimed at the BOF served no good purpose whatsoever. Had John been honest and direct, this project could have been handled with simple transfers. Now, however, John has emerged as the champion of the Fire Dept with you all charged with being unsupportive of our local volunteers, and John's picks for the BOF ..Mardis and Landers ..stand out as potential members who will right the wrongs and put the politics aside. It is classic John Hodge.

Regards Peggy

Candlewood Isle vs New Fairfield on flawed assessment

To all CARE Plaintiffs and CARE Initiative Participants --

The CARE lawsuit against the Town was successfully concluded and ultimately settled last week in discussions with Town officials in Danbury Superior Court. Through an agreed-upon process involving the Town's Assessor and an independent appraiser representing CARE plaintiffs, negotiated fair market values for all properties were established and agreed to by the 38 plaintiffs remaining in the lawsuit. In aggregate, the total reduction in appraised values for these properties resulting from the CARE lawsuit exceeded $1,850,000.

To record the learning experience for those who follow, the CARE Steering Committee and Rucci Burnham Carta, our legal advisors, will be preparing a summary wrap-up over the next several weeks to recap the process, outcome, lessons learned, and what was jointly accomplished for future reference. Our thanks for your enthusiastic support and financial backing throughout this three-year process to achieve fair and equitable valuations; the Isle is a better place as a result of your involvement, commitment and care.

Jim McAlister & John McGurk, Co-Chairs
CARE Steering Committee

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

OPEN LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF CITIZEN NEWS

OPEN LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF CITIZEN NEWS

Ellen Burnett, Editor and Publisher of the weekly newspaper called the ‘Citizen News’ since 1972 for the communities of New Fairfield and Sherman, Connecticut has requested that Roger Wise GIVE UP his first amendment rights. The following information was printed in the weekly newspaper called the ‘Citizen News’ of September 26, 2007:

Important information for New Fairfield Voters

It has come to our attention that Roger Wise, Democratic candidate for Selectman, has created an online blog entitled Citizens News Online. This site is NOT affiliated with the Citizen News newspaper in any way, nor does Mr. Wise have our permission to use this paper’s name. The information on this site is political in content and does NOT represent the views of the Citizen News newspaper. We have asked Mr. Wise to take down or rename his blog as soon as possible.

ELLEN BURNETT, Editor and Publisher of Citizen News

This address for this blog is http://citizensnews.blogspot.com. The ‘Citizen News’ is a weekly traditional printed newspaper and is neither trade marked or copyrighted; the Citizens News Online is a unique digital blog for collaborative commentary. The blog has a ‘disclaimer’ at the bottom clearly stating NO affiliation or association with the newspaper ‘Citizen News’.

The blog also references several other New Fairfield digital properties and maintains several digital entities designed to encourage open and healthy exchange, debate and collaboration within the community. The addresses for the resources and blogs can be found right after the disclaimer at the bottom of the http://citizensnews.blogspot.com:

Other Channels of Information and Comment

Warmest Regards,

Roger C. Wise

(203) 746-5492

Monday, September 24, 2007

Space Issues question ~ 2005 Campaign

The following is Hodge/Oliveri response to space issue question by the Citizen News. Read the response and decide if in fact the promises were kept or broken!


Response to Citizen News Space Issues Question

With all of the time and money the current administration has spent on the additional space issue, they have never asked the residents how they feel about space needs. The proposal to purchase the Druck building, which is currently being considered, continues that sad tradition.

There are many reasons to consider the purchase of this 40,000 square foot building, but the key reason would be to find a home for a much larger library. Do the residents of this town want a significantly larger library? Surprisingly, it doesn’t appear as if they are going to be asked that question prior to spending $20-30,000 to inspect the building. Yet expanding the library is the lynchpin to the entire Druck purchase.

If the residents of town do not want a greatly expanded library then purchasing the Druck Building just doesn’t make sense. We do not need to purchase 40,000 square feet of industrial property if our needs are limited to the following:

(1) A new Senior Center

(2) A Youth/Community center

(3) More space for town offices.

Ron and I will propose the following solution to the town’s space needs if the Druck building is not feasible or if the residents decide that a new library is not in their plans:

(1) Move the BOE to the new Gillotte Road property. The house on that property could be quickly expanded by putting a modular addition onto it. This could be completed in 3-5 months.

(2) Move the Land Use offices and the Park and Recreation Department into the Annex that was vacated by the BOE. The Annex is already used for office space so this move could happen quickly with little or no interruption of services. This would empty the lower level of Town Hall.

(3) Renovate the lower level of Town Hall to accommodate some of the offices upstairs.

(4) Once the lower level has been completed, renovate the upstairs of Town Hall for the remaining Town offices.

(5) Within 120 days of taking office, Ron Oliveri and I guarantee that WE WILL have the first shovel in the ground to build a permanent home for our seniors. The new center could be located at 302 Ball Pond Rd. By the way, we keep hearing how the Druck Building is in the “center of town”. Whether you drive from Town Hall to the Druck Building OR to 302 Ball Pond Rd, both locations are 1/2 mile for the center of town.

(6) Put the issue of a youth center to a town wide referendum. If the answer is “Yes, we want a youth center” (which Ron and I strongly support), it could be located with the senior center on Ball Pond Rd. or we could fold the Youth Center into the High School construction project.

The Druck Building purchase only makes sense if the town people feel there is a need for a new library. A report in the News Times, saying there are two other offers for the Druck building is, in some ways, good news. Druck has been one of the largest taxpayers in New Fairfield, producing almost $100,000 a year in taxes for this town. If we buy that property, its tax revenue will be lost forever. If purchased by someone else, those taxes will go a long way toward paying the debt service for our proposals listed above.

Keep in mind that, in addition to the town’s needs, the Board of Education will soon be bringing significant construction projects to the town. These costs may run into the tens of millions. We also have a school water system upgrade that must be completed by next December. This project alone will cost $2,000,000 or more. When you add all these projects together, we might well need to borrow between $30-50,000,000.

Ron Oliveri and I will solve the town’s space needs, but the key word here is NEEDS, not WANT TO HAVES.

We DO need to listen to the town as to their wishes for a larger library but we DON’T need anymore space studies, and we DON’T need any more delays that force us to pay high rents for the Senior Center. Ron and I will listen to the town’s desires regarding the library and move forward to rapidly solve the Town’s space needs. Let’s take action now!

Friday, September 21, 2007

OPEN GOVERNMENT VS LOCAL OFFICIALS

---------- Forwarded message ----------
To: CitiznNews@aol.com
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2007 03:14:26 EDT
Subject: letter to the editor

OPEN GOVERNMENT VS LOCAL OFFICIALS


The rights of citizens to live and operate under an open government, is the foundation of our democracy. The Freedom of Information Act was created to ensure that right for any citizen who wants to know how their government, and especially its officials, are doing their job.


To be clear-----Every citizen has the following right: To go into any public government building, and look at almost any public document. They do not have to fill out a form. They do not have to give their name. They do not have to give a reason why. They do not have to wait 4 days to look at those documents. They do not need permission from anyone to look at those documents. If that official does not have the documents in their possession, it is their responsibility to refer the person to the correct department. The officials may not keep public records in their private possession or in a place inaccessible to the public. All of this is to be done “promptly.” Any attempt on the part of our officials to deny any citizen this democratic right of access to public documents is illegal and should never be excused. When one is trying to look at documents because the Selectman refuses to answer questions, and that Selectman deliberately delays, and obstructs that process to the point that it becomes necessary to file a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission, it should never be labeled “trivial” as asserted by Mr. Hodge and some of his followers. A secret, closed form of government is a dangerous thing. The belief of Mr.Hodge that the citizens of New Fairfield do not have the right to know what he is doing, and how he is doing it, is against the law. The belief in the right of access to public documents certainly is not “trivial.” The Freedom of Information Commission, fed up with Mr. Hodge’s continued use of his misleading and misused “required FOI form”, his behavior, refusals, denials, obstructions, delays and excuses, imposed a personal civil penalty on him for this behavior, and certainly did not consider these complaints against him “trivial” One only has to go to their website to see that this is an action rarely taken by the Commission, and only in cases they consider the most egregious. Hodge's actions and violations were not “trivial” to the Commissioners. Neither should any complaint by a citizen, denied the right to know how an official is conducting town business, be considered “trivial” by any of us.


So, the next time you try and ask Hodge a question, and he refuses to answer you, remember that you can always walk into the office at Town Hall and ask to see the records. It’s the law and your right. You have the right to know how your government and its officials are acting and what they are doing.


Please visit the following website to know your rights as a citizen to an open government. FOI@PO.STATE.CT.US.

thank you

jody gemmell

746-5891

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

HODGE FINED BY THE FOI COMMISSION

Mary Connolly:
September 12, 2007
Letter to the Editor / News-Times


HODGE FINED BY THE FOI COMMISSION

It is extremely rare for a public official to be personally fined by the FOI Commission for repeated and numerous violations of the Freedom of Information Act. WOW! This is the second time in the last month a New Fairfield resident had a bellyful of the town hall shenanigans [having requests to review public information stonewalled], filed a formal complaint against John Hodge and then won the case against him.

I obtained an audio CD of the Final Hearing that included the latest adjudication against Mr. Hodge. In addition to a severe tongue lashing, a civil penalty in the form of a personal fine was imposed by the Hearing Officer. WOW! What was quite surprising is that Mr. Hodge chose not attend his hearing and defend himself, but sent New Fairfield’s Town Consul to represent him. Our Town Consul had to make 3 or 4 trips to Hartford and write a few lengthy legal briefs in a futile attempt to defend the indefensible position of his leader related to the two separate FOI Act complaints ~ and Mr. Hodge predictably lost both cases. I wonder what defending the 1st Selectman’s transgressions has cost us taxpayers in legal bills for Town Consul’s efforts?

Considering the attempted Board of Finance power grab/coup that is still in process, coupled with the FOI Commission’s reprimanding him on two separate cases in the last 30 days, can you see the dictatorial pattern of behavior that has become a very visible trademark of our 1st Selectman? Tune on Channel 17 and watch him in action at televised meetings when things do not go his way.

In 6 or 7 weeks we need to vote for change at the top of the ticket in New Fairfield and restore civility to Town Hall.

Doug Thielen
New Fairfield

Monday, September 17, 2007

Government by Petition

Letter to the Editor which was not published by the Citizen News


At the last Board of Finance meeting insufficient bids and information was presented to the board for approval on HVAC system for Squantz Pond Fire Dept. building.


The board’s position was simple: is there any problem with the present system and is it still functioning? ANSWER: NO PROBLEM STILL WORKS.


How many qualified bids have been received? ANSWER: ONE.


How does the New Fairfield bidding process work? ANSWER: WE PUT AN ADD IN THE PAPER.


Is the Squantz Pond Fire Department building a municipal building? ANSWER: NO.


Does the town have an agreement as to the roles, responsibilities and obligations of each party? ANSWER: NO.

ACTION BY THE BOARD OF FINANCE: an attempt was made to move the issue to the September regular Board of Finance meeting permitting the Town to pro actively solicit additional bids and allow the Town counsel the opportunity under our “retainer agreement” to craft up an agreement.

ACTION BY MR. HODGE: Mr. Hodge already had an executed petition in his pocket before the Special Meeting of Board of Finance began. Therefore, there was really no requirement for the Board of Finance to meet in the first place, let alone in special session to consider the question. This action was an abuse of the volunteers of the Board of Finance and most importantly our form of government. This is the second time the ‘government by petition’ was used to circumvent the Board of Finance. How many more petitions will be used to obligate and spend taxpayers’ dollars?

In each case, ‘government by petition’ has deemed the Board of Finance irrelevant eliminating a most critical aspect of our form of government – Checks and Balances. The first petition was the Senior Center for $900,000 and now a second petition for $90,000 for the HVAC system for Squantz Pond Fire Department. In each case, Mr. Hodge had a signed petition in his back pocket prior to the Board of Finance meeting making the Board of Finance “irrelevant” as a deliberative body of checks and balances in the appropriation of taxpayers’ dollars? Does $109,052,966 for school renovation ring any bells!


Roger C. Wise

Sunday, September 16, 2007

John Hodge's theatrics won't stop questions

Sept. 16 2007

The voters of New Fairfield are being given a staged performance by First Selectman John Hodge in an attempt to discredit the recent necessary actions taken by the Board of Finance.

It is a desperate attempt to divert attention from the true issue, which is his repeated and continuous refusal to supply the Board of Finance with the financial information that they have repeatedly requested from him regarding the ongoing town projects being controlled by Hodge.

The quoted "legal opinion" is worth nothing as he has no legal authority over the Board of Finance. Connecticut state laws and general statutes make this quite clear.

The questions being raised by the Board of Finance are simple: Where are our tax dollars going? What are the costs to taxpayers on the historical houses restoration?

After two years, where are we with the Senior Center? What are the costs for the work done so far? What are the grant restrictions on the Senior Center?

Most voters and most seniors are not aware that the grant restricts the new Senior Center use to age 62 years and older (our current center allows age 50 and older), and that the new building is strictly limited to use by those seniors.

It will not be available to the rest of the residents -- unlike our current Senior Center which is used for seniors, town meetings, board meetings, town organizations, etc.

The BOF wants financial answers from the first selectman. Any attempt on his part to make it appear otherwise is an obstruction of their fiduciary duty.

Taxpayers deserve answers to the questions being asked by the Board of Finance on their behalf -- "What is going on and how much is this going to cost?"

Two years later and we're still waiting for his answers.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tom Corbett ends one career and begins another

Sep 14 2007 9:30 AM
'Farewell, Tom'
Deborah Rose/Spectrum
| | |
'Farewell, Tom'


On Tuesday Tom Corbett attended his last school board meeting in New Milford, officially ending a career that spanned nearly four decades. The board honored Mr. Corbett at the start of the meeting. After introducing his wife, Peggy, beside him, to his "other family," Mr. Corbett credited his coworkers and residents who had been so wonderful to him. A farewell party was slated for this afternoon (Friday) at the Hopkins Inn.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Senior Center ~ Let me get this straight

Roger

Let me get this straight.

We currently have a 5,000 sq. ft. Senior Center that can be used by the rest of the town as it has no restrictions. It is open to seniors 50 yrs old and up. We pay $80,000 +/ yr in rent and can actually expand into the adjoining space if needed...
the NEW senior center will cost the town over $1,700,000 out of pocket ( $900,000 in bonds and $800,000 in land purchase) will be HALF of the 7,000 sq ft. building. (---ie 3,500 sq ft. ?) can only be used by residents 62 yrs old and over. Will cost how much per year to pay off the bond, and how much a year in payments?
We now have a 5,000 sq ft building with multiple town/senior use and we are going to a 7,000 sq ft building with a net gain of 2,000 sq ft for a huge price tag?
What am I missing here when I think this is NOT a good deal for anyone?

Name withheld upon request.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Traffic light at High School entrance

Mr. Paul McKnight asks the question:

Gentlemen:

When you are elected would you make it a commitment to put in stop lights the High School entrance on Gillotti road before a fatal accident occurs? Mr. Hodge is taking deserved credit for the enhancements that have taken place at the high school but with that also comes increased traffic and the near misses.

Sincerely

Paul McKnight
41 Gillotti Road
New Fairfield, CT