said Hans Otto, the to take a a similar position in Darien, admitted stealing various items from the New Canaan school district during the time of his employment. In June, .
Otto, who was hired by New Canaan in 1999, was praised by outgoing First Selectman and others in letters of support sent to the Norwalk Superior Court judge who on Tuesday allowed him to enter the accelerated rehabilitation program. The program, a form of probation, allows defendants to avoid a criminal conviction if they get into no further trouble for a period of time.
"I can recommend the strength of his character without reservation," wrote Walker in a Nov. 8 letter addressed, "To whom it may concern."
Former New Canaan High School Principal , now the principal at Trinity Catholic High in Stamford, wrote in a letter dated Oct. 13, "I am honored to provide a character reference for him."
New Canaan police accused Otto of stealing items with a total value of more than $5,800, including a $3,100 power washer, a $1,200 laser level and a $1,000 portable generator. Other items included tables and a hand truck.
On Tuesday, Judge Bruce Hudock granted Otto access to the accelerated rehabilitation program. Otto is to be in the program, a form of probation, for a total of two years, the maximum length of accelerated rehabilitation.
As a condition of entering the program, Otto was ordered to do community service and pay a maximum of $4,300 in restitution to the school system for "verifiable out-of-pocket expenses." He was also ordered to perform 50 hours of community service.
New Canaan police gave the following account of their investigation and what they were told:
Robert Willoughby, who replaced Otto in New Canaan in April, was told by an employee that several town-owned items were missing. Willoughby told police about the matter.
"Willoughby stated that since he had recently begun working in the department he did not know any makes or models of the missing equipment, wrote Sgt. John W. DeFederico in an affidavit. "He also had been informed that there was little to no inventory control in place in the department and it is unknown where the equipment may have gone."
When Otto was asked about the missing items on May 31, police said, he at first denied he had taken anything, and he named other school employees who, he said, either were last with the equipment or from whom he had tried to get the equipment back. For some items, Otto changed his story more than once during the interview, but he did admit that he had taken some folding tables for a party and had forgotten to return them.
The next day, Otto brought in the tables, as well as the power washer, laser level and other items to the Police Department. He also admitted he had made up some of the stories he had told the investigating officer about how other employees had taken some items.
Police confirmed with other school system officials that there was no written or unwritten understanding or policy at the school system under which employees could take or borrow town property.
"I am glad to offer a letter of support on his behalf," wrote in a letter dated "October 2011." Rothman wrote: "All of us wish he was still with the school system. [...] [H]is character was never in question all the years we worked together, and I have no reason to believe differently today."
During a major renovation project at New Canaan High School, Pavia wrote, asbestos was found in the building, which could have posed a health hazzard if not treated properly.
"Hans followed his conscience and demanded that further testing be done to ensure the safety of the students and faculty," said Pavia. "His word was his bond, and he could be trusted in any capacity."
, a retired athletic director for New Canaan Public Schools, wrote in a letter, "I found Hans' integrity and honesty to be above reproach."
, head football coach at New Canaan High School, wrote in a letter dated Nov. 7: "In my 30 years at New Canaan High School I have seldom seen as professional and reliable [an] employee. [...] I would be honored to have Hans Otto involved with any job or organization I am involved with."