LETTER: Reconciling Doctored LWV Debate Footage, Spygate, and Higbie Town Hall, with Republicans Calls for Transparency

Letter to the editor from Sarah Littman

It’s been fascinating to read so many letters to the editor from Republican
politicians calling for “transparency” in the administration of Town of Greenwich government.

This sudden Republican passion for transparency would be infinitely more credible if Town Hall under the tenure of First Selectman Peter Tesei had actually been, well, transparent.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case, as I learned in pursuing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) complaint with reference to Tesei’s decision to allow a for-profit enterprise with non-transparent corporate information to hold a political event, complete with advertising, in the Town Hall Meeting Room last January.

I was outspoken about the event being held in the Town Hall Meeting Room because it went against the town’s own written policy for use of the meeting room facilities, namely “shall be available for local non-profit organizations” and point four: “Meeting Facilities of the Town Hall may not be used to solicit business from or conduct business with members of the public, such as, for example, buying or selling, marketing commercial products or services to the public, gambling, or the exchange of money.”

What I found particularly curious, and what formed the basis for my FOIA request and subsequent complaint, was how First Selectman Tesei’s justification for holding the event in the Town Hall Meeting Room pivoted from free speech (which was not under dispute) to “security.” I also wanted to know how my email address fell into the hands of a right-wing conspiracy theorist, Bettina Viviano, who sent the invitation.

It took six months, but on the eve of our hearing in Hartford, Town Attorney Wayne Fox emailed me a document from Greenwich Police which confirmed this pivot to “security” had no basis in fact, but was merely a fig leaf being employed by Mr. Tesei to justify an unethical decision which benefited a fellow Republican, Carl Higbie, who like Mr. Tesei is a life-long Greenwich resident, as well as media organizations whose ownership and funding is anything but transparent.

This on its face is disturbing, but taken with the matter of former RTC chair and GOP State Central member Ed Dadakis (also a life-long resident, according to his tagline in the Greenwich Sentinel) tweeting photographs of three women who’d reserved the Cone Room for phone banking in an attempt to justify Tesei’s bad decision – reveals a pattern of unethical behavior on the part of local Republicans.

According to the police report, Mr. Dadakis’ justified tweeting the illicitly obtained photographs on the basis that it was “disrupting Indivisible Greenwich’s claim for Carl Higbie’s right to use the Town Hall and his right of free speech.”

Again, as the GPD document obtained through FOIA observes, “The dismay identified online appears to be more with Tesei and Camillo’s “support” in giving remarks at the event and the usage of Town Hall as the venue, given neither America’s Voice News or Carl Higbie are “local non-profit organizations” that are the only exceptions to using Town hall spaces.”

Given this, it’s hard to understand why a Republican official who claims to be concerned with transparency would tweet out illegally obtained photographs, and when interviewed by Greenwich Police about where he got them claim journalistic privilege. Dadakis also refused to give a sworn statement, on the advice of his attorney.

Similarly, First Selectman Tesei and Selectman John Toner voted against holding an internal investigation as to whom might have misused the town’s equipment, and when interviewed by Greenwich Police, also refused to give sworn statements, Mr. Tesei for “political reasons” and Mr. Toner because he believed the investigation is of a “political nature and not a criminal matter.” Given that the evidence was sufficient for State’s Attorney Colangelo to apply for a warrant and Judge Bruce P. Hudock, (appointed to the bench by Republican governor John Rowland) to sign it, this seems like a very odd position for Toner to take.

The warrant was to obtain and search the phone of John Thompson, a Republican Constable and maintenance foreman at town hall, who had access to the closets containing the cable camera systems. Thompson’s attorney wouldn’t allow him to be interviewed without immunity from prosecuting, which the State’s Attorney was unwilling to grant. Why would he need immunity if, as he claimed in his initial interview with police, he wasn’t involved in taking the photograph and didn’t know who did?
Something is clearly rotten in the kingdom of Town Hall. In three weeks time, we have a choice on whether we want to change that.

Fred Camillo is running for First Selectman on his service to the town as RTM member and State Rep, but mostly, as evidenced by his inclusion of a reminder of it in practically every answer at the recent League of Voters debate, and the nativist language in his campaign mailers, because he is Greenwich born and bred.

Numerous letters to the editor repeat that, and emphasize Mr. Camillo’s niceness. And yet…on Friday October 11th , another life-long Greenwich resident, Paul Cappiali, posted a video to YouTube in which he deceptively edited footage from the LWV debate to encourage people to vote for Mr. Camillo. The doctored video is antithetical to the LWV’s mission of encouraging informed and active participation in government. Informed doesn’t mean misinformed.

I asked Mr. Camillo for comment, but he did not respond.

Greenwich needs clear, transparent, and ethical government in order to attract new families and businesses to our town. How are we going to do that with a First Selectman who at every opportunity pounds home the message that no matter how long you’ve lived here and contributed to the town, you’re still a second-class citizen if not born and raised here?
It’s time for new management, one that will be transparent, ethical and make decisions based on facts and the well-being of all the town’s residents, not just those who were born here.