Update 9:55 a.m.
Saying he didn't do anything wrong and that the website supporting his candidacy for New Canaan's first selectman had a simple typo, Paul Giusti on Thursday morning told Patch he worked as COO, not CEO, of The Fortress Group.
"I made a mistake on the website. I take responsibility for it and it's my website but someone made a mistake," Giusti said. "At the end of the day this is a typographical error on our website."
"I didn't do anything wrong," he added.
The section of the website detailing his background has been updated.
Addressing the question of his professional timeline (see original story below), Giusti said: "The problem is it's confusing as hell," Giusti said. "But I've been CEO of Brookstone Homes from 1989 to the present."
"Every single piece of literature out there says I was COO," Giusti said.
"I'm very disappointed. I have tried to run a very positive campaign and very upbeat campaign. These kinds of attempts to impugn someone's character are wrong. At the end of the day we're all friends and neighbors here," Giusti said.
Giusti said it bothers him that his team "got it [the job title] wrong."
Giusti told Patch it's unfair to call his professional experience into question, that he doesn't expect special treatment, but does expect to be treated fairly.
Giusti supplied the following background to Patch:
After graduating from Harvard Business School in 1985, I worked for GE for several years. I left the firm in March 1989 to start a real estate development company in the greater Chicago area. In 1994, after acquiring a small home building firm in Southeastern Wisconsin, we changed the name of the company to Brookstone Homes. In 1996, I sold Brookstone Homes to The Fortress Group – a publicly traded company that was consolidating the home building business. Kathy and I had decided to move back to Connecticut for personal reasons which prompted my decision to sell the company. My intention was to remain as Chief Executive Officer of Brookstone Homes for a period of time and then eventually leave the firm. Instead, the management of The Fortress Group asked me to take on role of a Vice President and then ultimately promoted me to be the Chief Operating Officer of the entire company. I remained Chief Executive Officer of Brookstone Homes, which was a division of The Fortress Group, throughout this entire time – essentially holding two titles within the same company. That sometimes leads to some confusion. In 2001, as the Board of Directors of The Fortress Group decided to divest itself of certain assets, Brookstone Homes was put up for sale. At that time, I resigned from The Fortress Group and was ultimately the successful bidder for Brookstone Homes. I have owned Brookstone Homes and served at the company’s Chief Executive Officer since that time. In all the information that I have produced over the past decade – including as recently as a full page advertisement in today’s (June 2) New Canaan Advertiser and all our printed campaign literature for this campaign – I have indicated that I served as Chief Executive Officer of Brookstone Homes as well as the Chief Operating Officer of The Fortress Group.
In his bid to become first selectman of New Canaan, Paul Giusti cites business experience as proof of his ability to lead.
As part of his campaign to secure the nomination Giusti, a Republican, launched a website in April. The “About Paul” section says Giusti was “the Chief Executive Officer of The Fortress Group, a firm with 1,200 employees and over $750 million in sales."
Yet according to Fortress documents and information obtained by Patch, Giusti never rose above the level of chief operating officer.
Giusti could not be reached for comment.
The Fortress Group collapsed in 2002 and was the subject of an article by Gerry Donohue, a writer for Big Builder online. Donohue, now an editor at The American Council of Engineering in Washington, D.C., told Patch that he didn't recognize Giusti's name.
“I remember George Yeonas was CEO because I interviewed him for the article," Donohue said. "I don’t remember the name Paul [Giusti] at all.”
Fiscal responsibility and transparency are on the minds of New Canaan voters.
This week, was convened to investigate why some members of the Town Council seemingly 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.
Yeonas, now executive vice president and COO for Homebuilding Operations of TOUSA, Inc. was listed as CEO of The Fortress Group on his bio for TOUSA. According to Yeonas’ bio, he was CEO of The Fortress Group.
Yeonas could not be reached for comment.
Donohue said Fortress collapsed because “it was a bad idea."
"They were jumping on the bandwagon like everybody else to consolidate small companies in to one large company," Donohue said.
Also in question is the timeline Giusti provides on his website and social networking sites.
According to Giusti’s LinkedIn profile, he was CEO of Brookstone from 1989 to the present. The LinkedIn entry makes no mention of Fortress.
According to an April 24, 2000 Washington Post index, Giusti was promoted to COO of the Fortress Group the same month and year that Yeonas was promoted to CEO. In 2000, Giusti was listed as executive vice president and COO of Fortress, while Yeonas was still listed as president and CEO, according to the same Washington Post index.
In addition, according to a March 30, 2001 PR Newswire release, Giusti resigned from The Fortress Group in January 2001 to “take part in the competitive bid process for Brookstone Homes.”
Finally, Giusti is listed as COO, but never CEO, in the Fortress Group’s May 23, 2001 annual shareholder meeting report.
New Canaan's incoming first selectman will command an operating budget of more than $120 million and help oversee about 180 employees.