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Housing Authority Member: Musto and Former Board 'Played Politics'

Leone is a new member of the Trumbull Housing Authority.

Some recent statements about the controversy surrounding the conduct of some former Trumbull Housing Authority members, as well as its former attorney, State Senator Anthony Musto, are wraught with misdirection--if not outright deception.  What is especially disturbing and heart-breaking is that it appears that Senator Musto and some former housing authority members decided to play politics with the lives of Trumbull’s most precious population - - our seniors. Decisions made not to prepare for or assist resident seniors during hurricane Sandy were morally unconscionable. State Senator Anthony Musto’s recent response clearly reflects his circumvention of the core issues in this matter.  It is essential to ignore the spin, and consider the facts:

During Hurricane Sandy, the Town’s Emergency Management Department and the Town’s Fire Marshal reported serious problems with the lack of emergency management response for Stern Village.  In response to their verbal concerns, First Selectman Herbst asked for a full report detailing all of the problems.

During the hurricane, as police, fire and EMS personnel went door to door at Stern Village to try and evacuate seniors because of deteriorating and dangerous weather conditions, the Executive Director of the authority had left for the day and cited the fact that the complex is categorized as “Independent living” and therefore it was not his responsibility.  Also, the Executive Director does not own a cell phone, so it was difficult to reach him.

Furthermore, the Executive Director’s office was unable to provide an accurate list containing the names of Stern Village residents.  Improper record keeping unfortunately and most sadly led to the misidentification of a deceased woman who was found at the complex.  With many days advance notice of the storm, there does not appear to be any justifiable reason that a current list of residents and associated emergency contacts was not available. Inaccurate information needlessly risked the safety and welfare of seniors at Stern Village.

In the summer of 2011, the Town’s Emergency Management Department recommended a series of measures based on Hurricane Irene, including the installation of a generator. The emergency preparation recommendations were to be undertaken by the former housing authority members in the event of another weather related emergency.  Unfortunately, more than a year after their recommendations were made, the former housing authority members and the Executive Director failed to implement the core recommendations of the emergency response plan.  Since none of the emergency measures were implemented, residents of Stern Village had to evacuate.  The inaction of the former housing authority members was unacceptable, and reflects an insufficient interest in protecting the residents of Stern Village. The residents of Stern Village deserve quality leadership and compassion at all times, and especially during dangerous storms. 

Additionally, despite a specific recommendation in the emergency plan to do so, there were not any emergency plans prepared in regard to providing alternate housing for Stern Village residents that were medically unable to go to a shelter. Some of the residents of Stern Village were evacuated to a local school. However, some were not able to do so and should have been provided shelter at other senior housing complexes (E.g. St. Joseph’s Manor or Spring Meadow). Instead, the Executive Director stated that the residents unable to go to the shelter would have to move out of Stern Village.

Former Housing Authority Chair Judi Stern scheduled a meeting without any regard for the processes outlined in the Trumbull Town Charter, the seniors or the public. It is irresponsible and unacceptable that their meeting was not posted in the Town Clerk’s office or on the Town website.  The residents of Stern Village and the public deserve transparency and forthright behavior at all times.  Why so secret?  

During the illegal meeting, they proceeded and went into executive session. When they emerged, they voted to approve a two year extension for the Executive Director, Harry Wise.  They did this despite all of the problems, including a lack of responsiveness of the Executive Director, identified in the reports from the Emergency Management Operations Center and the Fire Marshal.   To make matters worse, no performance evaluation had been conducted for him over the last several years.  

Their attorney, Senator Musto also participated in the executive session and emerged with a prepared contract which extended the Executive Director’s employment at Stern Village.  Among the new contract provisions, if the authority removed Mr. Wise for cause, he has six months to “cure”.  Also, if the authority removed Mr. Wise for cause and he decided to sue the authority, the Town must pay for his legal fees if he prevailed.  The fact that Senator Musto had the contract prepared that night means that the Chair of the authority, Mrs. Stern and Senator Musto worked in concert before the meeting to orchestrate the contract extension.  Fortunately, the Town Attorney has concluded that all actions taken at the illegal meeting, including approving this contract, were null and void.

This type of conduct and disregard for the seniors and the public is a disgrace and extremely embarrassing for our town.  Where was the compassion for our seniors?

After all, “Compassion is the basis of all morality.”-Arthur Schopenhauer

Sincerely,

Joanna Leone

JR January 06, 2013 at 01:38 PM
When Musto sues, do you have to pay your own legal bills?
Thomas Tesoro January 06, 2013 at 02:56 PM
What an embarrassment to our Community. Why is it necessary that the infliction of politics infects entities that heretofore were run without any politics? Trumbull Republicans, in their quest for complete control of everything lash out at everyone and everything they see as a threat. This sad letter is just another example. If there were issues with Stern Village, then the correct way to handle them is to work with the leadership of Stern Village to correct them, not perform yet another political coup where Republican cronies are appointed to positions and immediately begin throwing mud on individuals with a long record of distinguished service to our Community in particular Stern Village. Sadly, the issues raised could have been easily resolved with a meeting consisting of the Fire Marshall, The Emergency Management Team and Stern Village leadership. If a cell phone is needed, then he should be given one. It seems everyone at Town Hall has a brand new I-phone, what is one more? If a generator is needed, find a way to see it happens. If concern for the residents was the real issue, address the problems. Instead we get the silly politics that has infected every element of our Town.
JR January 06, 2013 at 03:05 PM
What happened to the comment that was above mine? It made some very good points and was not at all offensive? Hmmm, the photo accompanying the letter changed, too.
Baffled Resident January 06, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Wrought.
Kathleen McGannon January 06, 2013 at 03:09 PM
If Sandy was truly the reason, why had TH already announced to the Senior Commission that he was replacing commissioners at Stern Village PRIOR to Sandy?
Tom Kelly January 06, 2013 at 03:27 PM
I know Ms. Leone, and I do not think comments about her dress are appropriate. There is no question that Ms. Leone is a nice person and we can address the substance of this issue without those kinds of references. That said, Ms. Leone is a newcomer to Trumbull politics, and I will give her one piece of advice, which she can take or leave. From my own personal experience, I can tell her that there is political and personal retribution and payback in much of what has gone on in this town for the last three years. In this case, although Ms. Judith Stern is not political, her late husband, Bruce, was the Democratic Treasurer of the Town of Trumbull for 14 years. I don't think the recent actions at Stern Village are a coincidence given that fact. When I first became in politics in Trumbull, I listened to the stories told by Mr. Herbst about the politics in Trumbull. Only once I got to know everyone on both sides of the aisle did I find out that there are two sides to these stories, and much of what I was told was completely untrue. I hope that Ms. Leone will talk to people on both sides of the aisle and form her own conclusions. By the way, not everything that is said on either of side of the aisle is completely true, but those who only listen to one side are not getting the whole picture.
Pam Georgas January 06, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Ugh! Why do Trumbull town politics remind me of a high school cafeteria food fight? There seems to be such a lack of civil communication, or any communication at all between republicans and democrats. This is why nothing gets done...everyone just flings mash potatoes, and then ducks for the incoming spoon full of peas
JR January 06, 2013 at 04:22 PM
It is amazing that a commissioner who has one meeting under her belt has such a grasp of the inner workings. Also, Joanna, you don't get to label a meeting as illegal. Only the state FOI commission has that power. You guys don't want to get them involved, do you?
Rebecca new January 06, 2013 at 05:50 PM
The whole process is shameful and I bet they'll be some foolish Seniors or family members who will think this was done for their benefit. If it is all about accountability, then tell us what makes the newly elected commissioners and the chair, more qualified. And to the Patch editor...you took out an insightful, and appropriately challenging comment this morning for no good reason, but yet kept an opinion-laden article that clearly is not written by its author. What is your accountability?
Aaron Leo (Editor) January 06, 2013 at 05:55 PM
Rebecca, half of beth's comment was indeed insightful but it contained a personal attack, forcing me to remove it under patch's terms of service. Should Beth like to repost the insightful part, I welcome it. Thanks for reading patch.
JR January 06, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Who changed the photo?
Aaron Leo (Editor) January 06, 2013 at 11:05 PM
I did at ms. Leone's request.
Thomas Tesoro January 07, 2013 at 04:45 PM
I feel badly for Ms. Leone who, as her first act in a public position, is hurled into the muck of this unfortunate and completely unnecessary nonsense. As a 7 year elected public official I would recommend to Ms. Leone that, as an intelligent and well meaning person, you do not do the dirty work of others. I am sure you know that the way to handle this situation was to sit with Mr. Wise, Ms. Stern and Town officials to review the situation and put in place procedures to see that any shortcomings were not repeated. As for this so called "illegal meeting", only the FOI Commission can make that judgement, not the FS, not Owens Shine and Nicola, and not Ms. Leone. Personally, this "illegal meeeting" is IMHO nothing but baloney.
MAC January 07, 2013 at 05:37 PM
To the Toms, one who "became in politics" and the other who "feel[s] badly" [SIC]: as well-intentioned as your advice to Ms. Leone may be, she is intelligent enough to make her own judgements, express them logically (as she has done herein), and make her own decisions--without your sour grapes tinged (and unsolicited) advice. You guys are so steeped in your envy of recent Republican electoral success in Trumbull--and your personal lists of grievances against the FS--that you cannot resist the temptation to regurgitate them at least weekly on Patch! More objective observers/readers of changes made to management and the board over the Stern Village debacle during hurricane Sandy as the only responsible thing to do! When the Police, Fire, EMS etc. have clearly identified and reported the serious safety and emergency preparedness failures of the manager at Stern Village, and the fact that he was inaccessible during the emergency--and was unapologetic (if not uncaring) about the plight of senior residents under his charge--the only logical conclusion is that the person needs to be fired!! Mr. Tesoro, in his post yesterday, advocated instead a course of baby-sitting and hand-holding for the failed management. Give me a break. I hardly think he would have called the logical ACCOUNTABILITY for FAILURE "political" if Baldwin had refused to renew the contract of an incompetent employee.
Thomas Tesoro January 07, 2013 at 08:00 PM
MAC you seem a bit angry and very confused. What I am advocating is an approach taken by the best businesses in the world, that is, when something goes wrong you do not point fingers, call names or engages in mindless purges. Instead, you get all the stakeholders together, see what can be learned and, if improvments need to be made, you make them. That is what should have been done here. The people at Stern Village, Ms. Stern and Mr. Wise in particular, have a long history of good service to that portion of our Community. They deserve more respect than was shown to them. Your conclusions regarding Mr. Wise are just that your opinions. The fire Marshall recommended getting a cell phone, a generator and an updated list of residents. All of which are good recommendations and should be done and could be done without the silly dramatics and putrid politics. Finally, I have no sour grapes, in fact, I would suggest that the actions of Trumbull Republicans with their purges and the like are indicative of a vindictive mindset that is not worthy of our Community. I have no personal grievance with the FS and in fact respect him enough to tell him when he is wrong. I believe he knows that very well. I also had no problem telling Mr. Baldwin when I felt he was wrong. However, it must be pointed out that when Mr. Baldwin was in office he was regularly criticized by the loyal opposition. It seems to me if you can dish it out, you should be able to take it when your time comes.
Thomas Tesoro January 07, 2013 at 08:04 PM
One more thing, my advice to Ms. Leone is free and unsolicited. She is as you say, free to ignore it but, if she steps back and thinks about it, I will bet she will see merit in it. If not, so be it. I think she will understand that if, and I say if, personnel changes were in fact necessary, they should have been done in a way that preserves the dignity of those who have served the community long and well.
john james January 08, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Antonetta's points are well taken. My friend's mother lives at Stern Village and I am told that Mr. Wise's availability to the residents was and continues to be quite limited. I am also told that he speaks to them disrespectfully and as a result, they are afraid to approach him about anything. What does he get paid to do? Years of good service? That is not what I have heard. Hurrricane Sandy and the events that followed appear to have brought the conditions at Stern Village front and center. The First Selectman had to address this situation whether you agree with his methods or not. IMO this mess lies clearly at the feet of Anthony Musto, Harry Wise, and the former board who pulled a shade as to what was really going on at Stern Village.
Antonetta Leone January 08, 2013 at 01:58 AM
First Selectman Tim Herbst is cleaning up our town. What a mess he has to take care of. One mess is worse than the other. Mr. Tesoro, do not worry, my daughter is smart, well educated, hard working and she has a mind of her own and can stand on her own two feet.. She is not the kind of person who follows a group or does what people tell her to do unless she knows it is right. Trust me, if she does not agree with someone she stands up for what is right. No one pushes her around. She has won a lot of awards at college and at her jobs. No one needs to take her under their wing. She can fly on her own. My daughter finds out facts, questions things and does the right thing. That lady Rebecca new has a lot of nerve ignoring the important things is the letter and our seniors. That is the important thing. If you want to talk to me about my opinion you can email me or call me. I can tell you alot about our town because I lived here for 47 years. I do not care how long some of you have been on a board or commission. You all put your pants on one leg at time like I do. My daugher has alot of compassion for seniors and brings alot of good things to our town. Call me anytime. I am in the phone book. Maybe I can help some of you understand seniors better and the things that went on in our town. My message to Tim Herbst is to keep up the good work and thank you for what you do. . Your family must be so proud of you to see all the good things you do.
Antonetta Leone January 08, 2013 at 02:04 AM
Mr. Wise thinks that Stern Village is independent living. Well why is he getting paid to be an Executive Director? What is he directing and who is he taking care of? Some people have titles but they don't want to do the work that goes with it. Mr. Wise should know what he needs to do and make sure it gets done and he should make sure people working for him do what they are supposed to do.. When he was told what to do, why didn't he and some others do it?. Didn't some of you read the article? Go back and read it because some of you must not have paid attention to the article. He was told what to do along time ago and never did what he was supposed to do.They did not even know the name of a woman who passed away because no one took care of the list of peoples' names. That is terrible.The seniors have families and loved ones. Doesn't anyone care about that? The person named Rebecca new on Patch must not have a heart. She said "some silly senior or family member?" Seniors are not silly and their families aren't. The First Selectman Tim Herbst worries about seniors and our town. He had to clean up alot of messes. In fact, when seniors struggled to pay their health insurance some people had their health insurance practically for free. Every time Tim had to clean up a mess, the truth came out. If Tim did not care, he would be just be like Mr. Wise and some other people who don't do anything they are supposed to do. Tim works hard and you can not deny that.
Freeasaneagle January 08, 2013 at 03:37 AM
John James- I hope your friend's mother speaks up about it or writes a letter. So sad!
Rebecca January 08, 2013 at 04:08 AM
I just read an article from a senior who lives at Stern Village and he very much disagrees with you!
Tom Kelly January 08, 2013 at 01:35 PM
MAC, you and others might want to read the recent letter to the editor and comments from a person who actually lives at Stern Village, as well as the petition signed by 70 residents of Stern Village. That is the voice of the people who ACTUALLY LIVE THERE, and not some politically motivated rant against a perceived political opponent. Are the folks that signed this petition similarly motivated as you claim I am? MAC, the things you say about me are ridiculous. I am passionate in my opinions, but they are not motivated by personal animus. My posts on national politics are even more impassioned than about local politics. Do you think it's because I have some personal animosity towards people in Washington I have never met? Take the time to find out what's going on in Stern Village, MAC, before sticking your neck out for our FS. There's a lot more to come on this story.
John Jameson January 08, 2013 at 02:35 PM
But it IS independent living, is it not? It's purpose is to provide affordable apartments to seniors able to live on their own, right? I would think that makes his purpose as executive director to make sure units remain in good condition, make sure rents are collected, etc. "The seniors have families and loved ones" -- yes, and shouldn't they be the ones on whom the responsibility falls first during a storm to make sure their relatives are okay, to provide a place to go if needed? I'm sure there are disable people living on their own in throughout the town, did the town check on them.? And what are all the messes Mr. Herbst had to clean up? I seem to be reading about a lot that he's created.
Thomas Tesoro January 08, 2013 at 03:45 PM
Division, rancor, maligned reputations and as far as I can see, no discernable reason for any of it. These are the kinds of things that happen when politics intrude on a matter that should have been handled with discretion. I have lived in Trumbull for nearly 22 years. I have had the pleasure of going to Stern Village to bring residents to the polls. Lovely people who seem to enjoy the community. In all those years I have never seen anything like the nonsense that we are now witnessing. Why the need to malign Ms. Stern and Mr. Wise? Why the need to change Counsel in a particularly egregious manner? Why the need to politicize a body that heretofore was not political. Why the need to stuff every Board and Commission with Republican cronies while at the same time rejecting qualified nominees put forward by Democrats? We are all friends and neighbors and should remember that electoral success is fleeting and that you reap what you sow. Our Community has had in the past and deserves once again civility in our Government and in our interactions with each other.
Anthony Musto January 08, 2013 at 04:47 PM
Ms. Leone, I am going to make the same request to you that I made to Mr. Herbst: please retract these comments. You are factually incorrect and your comments call into question my honesty and the honesty of the commissioners. Additionally, you were not part of any of the events about which you claim so much knowledge. I don't know where you got your information, but it was not from your own observation. You are stating these facts as if they are true, but you have no basis for them other than someone else's statements. Do not do Mr. Herbst’s work for him – let him and others with personal knowledge speak for themselves. If you are going to make statements you should make them from your own knowledge, not hearsay. Please retract them. Anthony Musto
John Jameson January 08, 2013 at 05:25 PM
Again, why? She wrote the letter, she is now on the housing authority and considered a public official. Why shouldn't her photo run with her letter?

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