“Friends of St Roch” Email Allegations against Parks & Rec Director Revive Field Controversy

Just as the dust began to settle on the Hamilton Avenue School field controversy, it was kicked up again this week.

The controversy began months ago when the Board of Education discussed a request for use of the field by the St Roch Church for its traditional Feast, which previously had use of the field for decades, but skipped the last several years due to work at the school and on the field. Instead they used the church grounds, preschool property and field across Hamilton Ave, at the corner of Stone Ave.

The BOE vote went along party lines, but when two Democrats abstained, the use was de facto approved. The church’s insurance came through just in time for the four day event.

Last week, local and regional media outlets, including News 12, featured stories about the damage done to the field as a result of the four-day feast featuring carnival rides.

This week, just as the BOE Facilities Dept, Parks & Rec Dept, and St Roch Church were working out costs and a plan for repairs, an email was sent from Friends of St Roch Church via [email protected] with a “feast field update.”

The Aug 24 email contained allegations against Greenwich Parks & Rec director Joe Siciliano, and referred to him “pushing a lie.” The email also disparaged town facilities, describing them as “a mess” and “neglected,” and saying the marinas were “wildly out of compliance with federal ADA laws.”

Reached by phone Thursday, First Selectman Fred Camillo said he was disappointed by the email and its personal attacks.

He said he had invited stakeholders including the St Roch pastor Father McIntosh, Parks & Rec director Siciliano, Greenwich Schools Superintendent Toni Jones, and Greenwich Schools facilities director Dan Watson to a meeting in his office the following week to “clear the air.”

“Hopefully it will ratchet down the temperature and get everyone back on the same page,” he said.

Camillo said he was disappointed that media coverage of the damaged field had overshadowed the story of a very successful event enjoyed by hundreds of families.

“The articles sent the message there was more wrong than good. The field was not good to begin with,” Camillo said, adding that he did not know who penned the Aug 24 email.

On Thursday, Parks & Rec director Siciliano said if a meeting of stakeholders takes place next week he will attend. “It’s part of my job. I am the director.”

“I would hope that at the meeting (the email) would get addressed before I bring it up. If the pastor is going to be there, he represents the church,” Siciliano said, adding, “I’d hope he takes the high road and brings it up. If he doesn’t I will be disappointed. I don’t care who wrote it. He is the head of the church and St Roch.”

Siciliano added that he grew up attending St Roch Church. He said his parents volunteered at the feast for 50 years and he volunteered there himself for 10 years.

Again, on Friday morning on WGCH radio, in response to questions from Tony Savino about the Aug 24 email, Camillo said, “I thought it was off base. It veered off the subject of the field and went onto other things and included a personal attack. That does no one any good.”

Camillo said while the email was “way over the top,” he suggested someone had a motive to disparage the feast.

“An RTM member was there taking pictures, arguing with people and apparently contacted the press. I have some questions about that, and who may have been involved,” Camillo said. “It’s not a crime. It’s just disappointing someone would do that. I think the email I thought was over the top was in response to the person involved with going to the press and trying to make an issue out of basically nothing.”

Camillo said he had yet to receive RSVPs for next week’s meeting of stakeholders.

As of Friday afternoon no one had taken credit for writing the Aug 24 email.

The director of communications for the Bridgeport Diocese, Brian Wallace, said the email did not come from the parish.

“The friends group owns the domain name, which the parish uses for its website. Plans are under way for the group to establish its own domain name as separate from the official parish site,” Wallace said.

Wallace added, “While the parish appreciates the goodwill of all those who seek to offer support, it was not aware of the emails, nor did it initiate them.”

Mr. Wallace said when he asked Father McIntosh on Thursday, McIntosh said he didn’t know who wrote the email.

On Friday, Feast committee member Paul Cappiali responded to an email to him and Jackie Budkins, also from the Feast committee, asking if either of them wrote the email. Cappiali responded saying Ms Budkins was not involved. He suggested following up with Frank Cortese, also from the Feast committee.

Mr. Cortese responded, saying, “I don’t know who sent the email, but we have since limited the use of the Mailchimp account by changing its password.”

James Waters who has been a champion for Greenwich Public Schools, said in an email, “It’s been pretty disappointing to see adults bickering and pointing fingers in the press for two weeks.”

Waters said the church should pay to repair the field and the town should help expedite the process.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill,” he said, adding, “Kids shouldn’t have to start school with fields ruined by a private event.”

See also:

Skirmishes Over the Hamilton Ave School Field Continue after St Roch Feast
Aug 18, 2022

PHOTOS: St Roch Feast Draws Crowds for Carnival Rides, Games of Chance, Great Food and Socializing
Aug 14, 2022

BOE Motion Passes Despite Split Vote on St Roch Church Use of School Field for Carnival
July 28, 2022

Questions Rise Over Use of Hamilton Avenue School Field for St Roch’s Carnival
June 22, 2022