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Martha Mark: Herbst 'Was Not Interested in Transparency' Over Concert

Mark wanted more discussion at the Town Council meeting where the funding for the Michael Bolton concert was approved.

An online article claiming that the Trumbull Democrats have “amnesia” over the Bolton concert is a weak attempt to distract readers away from the facts surrounding this failed event.  Despite the GOP’s spin, the Town of Trumbull has indeed lost $77,000 which it must pay out in expenses.

The GOP claims that parts of the funds which will be used to pay these debts are “non-taxpayer funds.” Net profit revenues from previous concerts and the last of the funds in the Trumbull Day account most certainly are not “non-taxpayer funds.”  Regardless which Town of Trumbull accounts are used to pay the creditors owed the nearly $77,000, that money belonged to our Town.  Splitting hairs over whether the dollars were those collected from taxpayers or those earned on the Town’s behalf is merely poor spin; it is the Town of Trumbull’s money.

On the issue of transparency, Mr. Herbst was not interested in there being any transparency in this matter of the summer concert. The BOF and TC were called together to vote on this summer concert in mid-July. Herbst claimed that this matter had been in the works for 3 ½ to 4 months; yet we were not informed about it when we were voting on all budget line items in April. As the Democratic Minority Leader on the Council, I moved to go into Executive Session in order for Herbst to reveal to us who he was considering choosing to perform. Since this was an unbudgeted supplemental expenditure, I felt the extra information should be given to aid our decision whether to take an extra $60,000 from the general fund, which was the actual resolution before both bodies at that joint meeting. Herbst stressed that this money was merely a bridge loan which would be repaid through concert proceeds, and that we were there to decide whether to hold a concert. The chaos which followed my motion led to it not being seconded nor voted on. Herbst stated to me that we didn't need to know this information because it was solely his prerogative to choose the performer for the concert.  He then rhetorically asked me why I don’t run for first selectman so that I could make such decisions.

As for the GOP’s accusation of inconsistencies, Mr. Palo’s statements clearly were not inconsistent.  At our meeting, he stated that the Town should not be putting on a concert unless the funding for it had been properly included in the annual budget.  Palo made similar statements about full day kindergarten.  Like many, he simply wanted these initiatives properly funded by budgeting for them in April.  In making these sorts of decisions, taking into account short and long term effects and methods of financing our desires is critically important. He acted prudently.

I appreciate that Herbst was responding to the people of Trumbull’s desire to hold events which bring together our community, albeit late and in the wake of an uproar over the lack of Fourth of July fireworks.   Several of us suggested privatizing such an event so that the town doesn't take financial risk on town entertainment, an idea which I agree we ought to consider. 

The excessive number of special meetings and supplemental, unbudgeted expenditures requested by the Herbst administration indicates disorganization and bad management of our Town.  We need to do better.

HL October 02, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Trying to claim the concert was much less of a loss than previously reported was very misleading by the administration. You can't call the profits from a previous concert a win, and then claim that losses from more recent concerts were not losses. I was originally appreciative of the approach Tim took with the concert, explaining the situation, admitting ticket sales were poor and cancelling the event to save further losses. If you put the bad decisions to ignore the financial board's advice, not tell members who the guest would be, and pick a performer that few wanted to see aside, Tim did the right thing initially by cancelling and being candid. But now to spin the loss to make it sound like a smaller loss, is just misleading. A better approach would have been to openly admit the proper loss. Take credit when an event makes money for the town, but not 3 years later.
Carol Hudak October 02, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Run for FS, Martha! You can only do 100% better. Good suggestion, Tim. Finally, you've said something I can agree with! Let's see, Martha: Tim insults you for asking the name of the concert performer; the person or persons the Town of Trumbull will be spending tens of thousands of town dollars on. In essence, he insults you for doing your due diligence as an elected representative. Then, when his concert choice fails, instead of coming before the town, accepting responsibility and apologizing, he does the 'Teflon Tim Two-Step' - yet again. It's the Trumbull WPCA/sewer disaster ($$$$$$) all over again. ARE YOU WAKING UP, TRUMBULL VOTERS? Excellent letter, Martha.
louis October 03, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Look, the short of it is this: In 1980 using Goldwaters limited Government approach (read, Cold War, US versus Communism where personal liberty is subordinated to the party apparatus), Reagan advanced an idea of limited government. He did not say we should become a government where we do nothing for the people, or that the government should be made up of merely elites, he wanted lower taxes, and lower government intrusion into our private lives. He also advanced a healthy suspicion of government as the solution to all problems, understanding that dependency on institutions can create, among weak individuals and malicious civil servants, a kind of self imposed slavery. As government takes our tax dollars anyway, many of the conservatives of the time felt that when surplus' exist, we should save it and use it for the enjoyment of the people. What has happened here as a result of poor management, bad luck and incompetence, with a twist of nefarious agenda thrown in, is an effort to raise our taxes and give us less. What do I mean with this: simply put, Trumbull's clique of government, whether democrat or local republican, has lost the essential idea that they are supposed to be serving the public (public service!). That is a radical departure from reaganism and I will tell you, the direction they are traveling will have serious consequences on public policy and individualism in years to come.
louis October 03, 2012 at 01:45 AM
We pay higher taxes per person under the Rutigliano clique, for real and personal property. They have a greater revenue stream than they did in 1945, when the population was merely 8000 persons. They have privitised trash collection, so we pay an extra fee to an outside company to haul our refuse, so that government doesn't do that anymore. They get more money from the state than they did in 1945 (but we hardly get an appropriate share in revenue from the state in ECS, which I will turnover soil up in Hartford to produce). The fire department is volunteer. They are slow on repaving our roads. What are they doing with all of the money they get and why could they throw a concert for free in 1973, for the people, yet cannot seem to produce a successful one in 2012, where the people are paying 50 bucks?
Carol Hudak October 03, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Good question, Louis: 'What are they doing with all the money they get. . ."

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