Greenwich DTC Statement on Improper Surveillance at Town Hall

Statement submitted by Joe Angland, Chair, Greenwich DTC, Sept 25, 2019

The report by the Greenwich police regarding the improper surveillance of Democrats at a private meeting in Town Hall underscores how far some Republicans will go to protect their own who have engaged in serious misconduct. By all appearances the police did a thorough job, but several prominent Republicans failed to cooperate fully. The facts recited below, most derived from the police report on the matter, paint a sad story.

In early 2019, when former RTC Chair Ed Dadakis posted on the internet pictures taken of Democrats in a closed meeting in a Town Hall room during the 2017 election campaign, it became apparent that at least one of the pictures had been taken from inside the room, using the television camera installed in the room and operated from a closet outside the room that is ordinarily kept locked. It was not – and is not – known whether video or audio recordings were made in addition to the still photograph that Mr. Dadakis posted.

Given the evidence of the improper – and presumably unauthorized – use of Town equipment to spy on a private political meeting within Town Hall, we expected the Board of Selectmen to move quickly to investigate. Such hopes were dashed. When Democratic Selectman Sandy Litvack moved to initiate such an investigation, neither of the Republican Selectmen would even second the motion. The position of First Selectman Tesei was extraordinary. No investigation was necessary, he observed, because it was not clear that the unauthorized use of the equipment constituted a crime. But one of the points of an investigation would be to determine whether a crime had been committed, which might depend on whether someone had broken into the equipment closet or had made audio recordings in addition to taking photographs. Moreover, even if the conduct was not a criminal violation, it was an unauthorized use of Town property to spy on a political event. One would hope that the Town – like any employer – would investigate the misuse of its property, perhaps by an employee, even if there was no criminal violation.

We sincerely doubt that the Republican Selectmen would have been so indifferent to the unauthorized use of Town recording equipment if it had been used to spy on a meeting of Republicans with the fruits of such spying posted on the internet by a former Chair of the Democratic Town Committee.

Of course, an investigation might not have been necessary if Mr. Dadakis had simply revealed who had supplied him with the surveillance photo. But when asked to do so in early 2019, Mr. Dadakis said that he did not recall where he had gotten the photo. Things took a different turn during the police investigation. The police report does not indicate that Mr. Dadakis denied recalling who had given him the photo. Rather, he claimed that he was not required to answer the police’s questions, invoking the journalist’s privilege (apparently based on the fact that he has a blog).

Mr. Dadakis was not the only one to fail to cooperate fully with the police investigation. While the Republican Selectmen did answer the police questions, and denied knowledge about the surveillance, they declined to swear to those denials. According to the police report, Mr. Tesei explained that would not make a sworn statement on this matter, which was “because of political reasons.” That is absurd. He had already said, in effect, “I don’t know who did this,” and simply swearing that the statement was true would not have created any new political issue. The only difference between a sworn statement and an unsworn one is that there are more severe consequences if a sworn statement turns out to be a lie.

Another key Republican declined to provide a sworn statement. One of the few Town Hall employees with a key to the closet with the controls for the video equipment was a former Republican candidate for Constable. The police obtained a search warrant for his cellphone, but they found nothing relevant – which was not surprising given that the picture had been taken more than a year before. This employee denied knowledge of the surveillance, but he declined to say that in a sworn statement without a grant of immunity.

The truth regarding this incident may never be known. But what is known is that several Republicans closed ranks and did far less than they should have to address this gross invasion of privacy. Beginning with the extraordinary failure by the Republican Selectmen to approve an investigation, continuing to the refusal by them and others to provide sworn statements to the police, and including Mr. Dadakis’s refusal to provide even an unsworn statement to the police, this entire situation was handled reprehensibly by people from whom Greenwich has a right to expect more.

 

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