Members of the town panel charged with looking into the of an against New Canaan that cost more than $1.6 million said Tuesday night that they intend to discover "all of the important facts" in the matter.
“We believe it is imperative that all questions get asked," member Kit Devereaux told the nine attendees at the group's inaugural meeting, held in Town Hall.
The group—a subcommittee of the Town Council—said items it has obtained and plans to obtain include bills and invoices, contracts, correspondence, offers on each side of the table and the exchange of emails after the arbitration awards.
Devereaux said all business regarding the controversial matter will be conducted at open meetings.
“We want to develop recommendations to avoid a similar occurrence in the future,” said the panel's secretary, Kenneth Campbell.
On May 18, as Patch , Town Council members were caught unawares about a $617,000 judgment against the town, handed down by the American Arbitration Association in a dispute about the bridge on Lakeview Avenue. In a subsequent meeting last week, took full responsibility for failing to communicate information about the arbitration award to the town’s governing bodies. Walker said he had been told of the judgment against the town in late February.
In his remarks at the May 23 meeting Walker said, “It fell through the cracks. It’s something I’m not proud of. It will never happen again. I take full responsibility for that.”
Subcommitee member Thomas O’Dea said Tuesday night that it may be best to look “into the mindset of town bodies” in order to figure out where things fell out of place and went wrong.
O’Dea said he was concerned that if the group approached individuals involved the wrong way, it could appear biased.
“I think if you pick out what somebody did without looking at the advice given, it isn’t very fair,” he said. “I generally like timelines, because you need to know who knew what, when.”
Beth Jones, concerned about the delivery of questions towards involved individuals, called for a dialogue so that people do not become defensive.
“My opinion is, this is a fact-finding thing," Jones said. “These are our colleagues and this should not be accusatory. I think we could get a lot more information in a collegial type of atmosphere. I know everybody is going to try to spin it their own way and I think we need to avoid the political trappings of people spinning it their own way,” she added.
Devereaux said that the subcommittee must look at how the firm was chosen and why the people involved felt that that particular firm would be the best choice. Beth Jones said that questioning all people involved would be necessary, but to have them come back repeatedly to the several meetings that the subcommittee has planned over the next month, would be unreasonable.
“If we are going to be questioning people as we go, we don’t want these poor people coming in over and over again,” she remarked.
The panel debated the negatives and positives of creating set questions for each individual in question and said it plans to have public comment at the end of each meeting.
“I think we could get all the information that the public wants without personal attacks,” O’Dea said.
One member of the public spoke up at the meeting, Frederick Chang of New Canaan.
“Since last Wednesday’s meeting, up until 2 p.m. today, I spoke to about 13 people who have stated that they are afraid to come to the meetings. There are people who are afraid to come forward and show their faces in public,” Chang said. “I am not afraid to speak out. I believe it’s my civic duty to do so."
Upcoming meetings are scheduled for:
- Monday June 6 at 7:30 p.m.
- Tuesday June 14 at 7:30 p.m.
- Wednesday June 22 at 7:30 p.m.
- Thursday June 30 at 7:30 p.m.
***Tuesday night’s meeting can be viewed on Channel 79 twice a day for a week starting on Friday.