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Stern Family Relative Speaks Out Over Changes at Stern Village

By Gregory Stern

To The Editor:

For as long as I can remember, Trumbull politics has been a part of my life.  I have witnessed the good and the bad but never have I witnessed the ugly…until now.  The actions of Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst surrounding the Trumbull Housing Authority (THA) and Stern Village have been utterly atrocious.  His unethical treatment of THA members shows why people’s attitudes toward local politics, and Herbst himself, have soured.  Stern Village is not an assisted living facility.  It is a low-income, municipal housing project where people live just as would any rent-paying tenant.  The THA has no obligation to its residents other than what you could reasonably expect from a landlord.  In spite of that, members of the THA routinely went above and beyond for the residents of Stern Village – a long-standing tradition that began when Stern Village opened.  Herbst does not grasp this concept.

                  First, some background.  For decades, long before Tim Herbst or I were even born, my family dedicated itself to making the Town of Trumbull a great place to live.  It all began with my grandparents, Henry S. and Ann Stern – the namesakes of Stern Village.  Throughout their lives, they donated their valuable time and offered their services in any way possible so Trumbull could be a model town. 

                  Following in their footsteps was their son, my father, Bruce.  Determined to further their efforts, he entrenched himself in all-things Trumbull.   Whether it was his 7 terms (14 years) as Town Treasurer, 10 years he spent fighting for the expansion of our great library, maintaining the visions for Stern Village, activism for Veterans with the American Legion and even volunteering at Trumbull Day, you will not find anyone to argue the fact that he was one of the most ethical, friendly, honest and dedicated members of Trumbull’s society.

                  Next is my mother, Judith.  While she supported her husband’s efforts, she never got involved in town politics.  She took the appointment to the non-political position of THA Chairwoman so the work of the family would continue.   She spent countless hours volunteering for the THA, cultivating meaningful relationships with its residents while maintaining and improving upon the high standards the community is used to.  As with her husband, you will not be able to find anyone in the town who can say anything negative about her.  She is the type of model citizen that sadly goes unnoticed in the community until someone like Tim Herbst meddles with something with which he is not familiar.

Unfortunately, the current regime in Town Hall is quickly destroying everything my family has worked so hard for – and doing so publicly with inappropriate, misinformed personal public attacks.

                  In a December 27, 2012 article in Trumbull Patch, Tim Herbst was quoted:  “…Mrs. Stern showed her true character and her clear lack of concern for the residents of Stern Village by placing politics ahead of people…” What is her “true character?”  Does Tim know my mother?  Has he ever spent time getting to know her and what she stands for?  As for a “clear lack of concern for the residents” – without her, and the family, there would be no residents. Beyond the normal, expected duties of Chairwoman, how about the piano she donated to the residents for their enjoyment? How about the desserts she provided at the annual resident picnic?  Why did residents lovingly honor her earlier in February? 

In the ensuing weeks and months since his changes, Herbst has proved his lack of knowledge about Stern Village, vilified good, hard working people for no reason and placed people in positions on the THA who obviously do not care about anyone currently involved with Stern Village or its history.  One example is the appointment of Joyce Meehan as resident member of THA.  She was in the process of being evicted from Stern Village for repeated violation of the no smoking policy. Not only was she smoking where she was not allowed to, but she was doing so in the vicinity of residents who use flammable Oxygen tanks.  And then there are these examples from Harriet Polansky, the new Executive Director:

  • Dismantling a security camera trained on an exterior doorway of the meeting hall;
  • Ordered portraits of the founders of Stern Village to be discarded;
  • Drove the long-standing secretary  (she started in 1992) to quit her job within days of Polansky starting because of asinine and picayune tasks;
  • Told the secretary not to bother come to work at her normal time one occasion because the Executive Director was “having people over;”
  • Closes the Director’s office at all times;

Whenever faced with criticism, Herbst responds the only way he knows how - to cowardly demean those who block his megalomaniac pursuit of total control of this small town. He never offers concrete evidence to back up his claims. He just blames and he does not care who he hurts.

When he chose to call out Judi Stern, he may have thought he his words were aimed at one person.  He was mistaken.  When you attack my mother, you attack me. You attack my family by cheapening our contributions to the town.  You attack every upstanding, conscientious citizen of Trumbull.  Judi Stern and the other THA members will never get the public apology from Herbst that they deserve.  But they know who is right in this situation and so do the residents of Stern Village.  The contributions of my family over the past decades will outlive and outshine anything Tim Herbst has done or will do as First Selectman – a position he hopefully will no longer hold come November.

- Gregory Stern                 

Carol Hudak February 27, 2013 at 05:50 PM
BRAVO, GREGORY!!!! I knew Ann and Sam Stern, as well as your father, Bruce. The town is lessened by their passing. How proud they would be of you for this tremendous letter. You are a credit to your lovely mother, Judi, and your whole family. Mrs. Polansky is a good friend of Deborah Herbst - that's the only credential she has to be SV interim director. And, let's face it, even if they conduct a worldwide search for a new permanent director, Ms. Polansky will end up with the permanent job, though she has NO credentials to be running a housing authority. Discarding your grandparents pictures?? Chutzpah!! What total gall. What gives her the right to do this?? I am awaiting the inevitable name change from Stern Village, to Herbst Village. Dismantling a security camera? Seriously?? Gregory, many people in Trumbull, especially at Stern Village, see through this 'Storm Sandy' deception. They know the libelous description of your mother as just that: libel/slander. Many see it for what it really is: the gifting of a town job, with benefits, to a Herbst family friend, who clearly needed a job. FS Herbst attacked your mother, Atty. Musto and most certainly, Harry Wise. His urgent need to give Mrs. Polansky this position, bypassing the normal job interview or employer and reference checks, gives a thinking person pause . . . Mr. Wise was bought out almost immediately. Why the hurry? That's the question: WHY? Again, Bravo, Mr. Stern, Bravo.
Peter Preko February 27, 2013 at 07:39 PM
My mother has friends in Stern Village. Those portraits werre taken down before Ms. Polansky arrived and according to the people who saw it, Mrs. Stern took them. Facts are facts. BRAVO. Check with the person who does the SV newsletter. He has told many that Ms. Polansky Had nothnig to do with those portraits and they were down before her arrival just a week ago. Furthermore, I understand there is much to this story that has yet to be told. Stay tuned and BRAVO to Mr. Herbst.
Carol Hudak February 27, 2013 at 08:50 PM
I agree, Mr. Preko. There is a whole lot more to this story, yes indeed. And I am tuned to it, rest assured. If Mrs. Stern took these pictures down, one would assume her own son would know about it. I read his statement and take him at his word; well before I would ever take this GOP-dictated/dominated regime at their word. Sad, but true. BTW, Mr. 'P' it's a shame this admin. has such an 'us' vs. 'them' attitude - we all live together in a small town. I wish we could all agree to disagree, without having to endure all of these battles. Isn't our common goal the welfare of the town and its residents? Have a peaceful day.
Greg Stern February 27, 2013 at 08:58 PM
If you read the letter properly, I said she ordered them discarded. That is different than "taken down." And yes, Mrs. Stern took them to save them from the scrap heap.
Patricia Doyle Lungi February 27, 2013 at 10:44 PM
Patricia Doyle Lungi, Stern Village Resident John Wayne is dead. Mighty Mouse is not coming to "save the day." Thomas Kelly asked what was wrong in Stern Village that the Herbst dynasty was afraid for the world to see.The answer is the lies and duplicity First Selectman Herbst used to acquire us.. He marched in here like Hitler.Then the World cried, "Never again!" Yet, again is here Stern Village has been occupied and thrust into an Orwellian society. We're always looking over our shoulders. First Selectman Herbst used Sandy as an excuse to conquer us, but.then we could still leave our homes. During Nemo and under Herbst we were trapped behind five feet of snow. After Sandy,Mr.Herbst blamed our former administration for not providing a generator for the Community Room. However, during Nemo, what good would a generator have done when we couldn't get out of our doors for almost four days? Where was the Fire Marshall then? Instead of Trumbull trucks coming in to "save the day," we only rated small out of state vehicles. WHERE WAS TRUMBULL? We trusted Harry Wise, Judi Stern, Ed Coyne and Attorney Musto.Only a handful of us attended their THA meetings.Now,we crowd them terrified of what's coming next. Next? Harry Wise's secretary,Carol,left.We want our lives and all our people we love returned., If we have to succomb to this battle, we will never "Heil Herbst!" Instead we will win the war - at the polls! John Wayne and Mighty Mouse would be proud of us.
Tom Kelly February 27, 2013 at 11:42 PM
I want to know why the pictures of the Stern Family were taken down, by whom, and at whose request (or order)? This is a very important point. Because that is blatant disrespect. I suspect that someday, portraits of one or more of the Herbst family will be hanging in this town. I know that Tim's portrait will be hanging in Town Hall. If his successor took down his portrait, I would be the first person to say that it was a sign of disrespect. Something similar is going on at Stern Village. Mr. Herbst, I ask you to look into this, because you simply cannot make the argument that this take over was ordered for safety and security purposes when the portraits of the Sterns were taken down as soon as the new THA swooped in. This is more than symbolic, and I urge you to have those portraits placed properly and show some respect for the family that enabled this place to exist in the first place. Trumbull residents are not going to abide those portraits being removed in such a disrespectful fashion.
Peter Preko February 28, 2013 at 12:43 AM
You obviously missed it. MRS. STERN TOOK THE PICTURES. No one was going to throw them out.. The Stern family is still well respected despite Mrs. Stern's confrontational attitude. As for my Hybernian fellow, I admire your candid and lack of thought and reflection. You are reactive and probably monitor the blog all day. I was raised here, unlike you and have much stake in the success of this town. Stern Village is wrought with inuendo and the truth be told will come out. Mr. Herbst is no egomaniac. He has surrounded himself with intellegent thoughtful managers who will do whats in the best interest of the town and the citizens..
celtictee February 28, 2013 at 01:24 AM
Mr. Preko stop wasting our time with your imaginary self and all your fake profiles created from the same IP address. You are actually doing more damage to the people you are trying to protect.
Carol Hudak February 28, 2013 at 01:55 AM
Mrs. Lungi, you are a true breath of fresh air, and an original voice in the very best sense of the word! Thanks for bringing your comments to this discussion. From the tone of your post, I think I can correctly assume that you have NOT read the newly displayed "How to Post on an Internet Chat Site" suggestions which are posted near the new interim director's door at Stern Village. My information is 2nd hand, as I have not seen this posting. Anyone who has actually seen this 'friendly' directive, do jump on here and tell us all about it. I can't imagine what instructing people about posting on a chat site has to do with a housing authority director's job, but, as I said, maybe someone will post here and explain it to us. BTW, Tom, perhaps Stern Village will be re-named 'Herbst Village' and they will need different pictures! Seriously, of course it's an outrage, as is everything about this transparent powerplay. And I agree - if someone took FS Herbst's picture down from the Town Hall wall one day, I too would complain. And, 'PP' it's not about 'intelligent and thoughtful' managers at SV . . . it's about their total inexperience and lack of understanding of the elderly. I know a lot of people who are 'intelligent and thoughtful' but have no experience in housing/elderly/social services, etc. I have observed this new crew talking down to the residents. These people are old, not stupid or childish. Nor do they need signs telling them how to behave.
Patricia Doyle Lungi February 28, 2013 at 02:37 AM
You are right, Carol. We are old, but we are savvy. If the State of Connecticut decides to investigate this administration, they will find that it rivals Tammany Hall. Chances are the iron fist of Big Brother has reached down to squeeze stronger people, people with more clout, people who know how to fend them off as well as the elderly. Our hopes to God's ear. Meanwhile, our golden years are being tarnished by the power and greed of a bully. Why? Because he can. Our hearts have been squeezed dry..
Tom Kelly February 28, 2013 at 12:57 PM
Greg Stern: I want to tell you that I respect the way you have spoken on behalf of your mother and your family. Your parents made so many contributions to Trumbull, and not just in town government, but in financial generosity, volunteerism, and community service. The love that you express in your post is wonderful to see, and I totally believe that love will always ultimately triumph over all. It is truly a shame that you have to defend against attacks on your mother's character. I think our First Selectman chooses words like that based on his way of expressing himself politically. Because there is just no way that he would speak like that if he was older and more mature. One of the advantages of being older is that one can see and experience what a life's work is all about. Things like commitment to marriage, children, family, work, community service when done over a lifetime should be respected and admired, not insulted. I believe there will come a time in the future when Mr. Herbst will have more respect for life works, because he will have experienced more of his own and more of others and realize and feel what that means. I believe his words in the future will come more from his own experiences, rather than simply words chosen for political effect. Your mother, Judith, has given so much to her family, her town in so many ways, and to Stern Village. Her character should not have been questioned. I'm sorry she had to read that in the paper.
Peter Preko February 28, 2013 at 01:53 PM
Senior Hybernian and others- there is a silent majority out here and you represent the negativity and bully pulpit that is typical of blogs. Enjoy your day.
Peter Preko February 28, 2013 at 02:14 PM
"•Ordered portraits of the founders of Stern Village to be discarded." THIS NEVER HAPPENED. People are in such a hurry to jump to conclusions. Many people believe that if it is on the blog it is true. That is unfortunate and disturbing. Everyone including our elected officials want what is best for the town and SV. Lets not make party affiliation or lack thereof a dividing issue..
Carol Hudak February 28, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Mrs. Lungi, you have actually lived through the years of Hitler, you have seen a lot. Your words, in my opinion, carry extra weight. They give one pause . . . I only wish the many good Trumbull residents who are outraged by the actions taken at SV, would follow your example and speak out. I am honestly stymied that most, elected Town Council Representatives seem to be M.I.A. regarding the happenings at Stern Village. Where are their voices?? I know as a GOP member, speaking out against the words and actions of their own party would cause them grief and assuredly have consequences. However, Martin Luther King said: "Our lives begin to end the day we become Silent about the things that matter." I have this quote on my desk. Perhaps voicing an honest opinion is more important than security and good-standing in one's party. The Trumbull Democratic Party has been sadly silent throughout this whole disturbing ordeal, and even before that. It's true that there's 'strength in numbers.' The few Dems who do speak out need to unite. There are many good people in town afraid to speak their minds. Perhaps Trumbull needs a 3rd party; a party unafraid to speak out against any perceived shenanigans. I would join such a party, though I would not lead it. "In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." - Rev. M.L. King
celtictee February 28, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Sorry, I believe Mrs. Stern and her family's version - that the potrtraits were removed because they were going to be discarded - as they have been selfless long-time benefactors to our town and are above approach. Our "administration" - not so much.
Patricia Doyle Lungi February 28, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Mr. Stern, We, the tenants of Stern Village, love, admire and appreciate your Mother. Her diminutive stature houses a brilliant intellect and an enormous heart. She worked tirelessly for us, and she has more than earned our respect. Judi Stern will always be a part of us.
Peter Preko February 28, 2013 at 03:28 PM
Hybernian bro, you make my day.
celtictee February 28, 2013 at 04:01 PM
It's HIBERNIAN - and you greatly compliment Mr. Kelly by referring to him with this honorable moniker.
Peter Preko February 28, 2013 at 04:35 PM
Hybernian- Hibernian oops... please celt bro do not take this as disrespect to your proud heritage. In advance Happy St. Patricks Day. You are the best.
JR February 28, 2013 at 04:51 PM
I was a member of the AOH for many years. Please stop using Hibernian as a slur.
Peter Preko February 28, 2013 at 07:15 PM
It was never ever intended as a slur. It was in response to a tag name. If i offended you, that was never my intention. And happy St. Patricks Day to you.
Patricia Doyle Lungi March 01, 2013 at 01:23 AM
Indeed I remember the blackouts - one night in particular. I was about four years old.My Mother woke me up to see soldiers marching down our street. They were laughing and back slapping.The war to end all wars (right?) was finally over. All around us people were turning on all the lights in their houses. Through her tears my Mother told me to go back inside and turn on the lights in our house..Then she came in and baked a chocolate cake in the middle of the night! No more ration tickets! My Grandmother, who was from Austria-Hungary and knew about the Hitler regime first hand, called crying as well. It was a real celebration. That was the first time in my life that I witnessed people crying because they were happy. Thanks for the memories.
Al March 02, 2013 at 01:54 PM
Is The Stern Village Sign on the main road to go too.
Patricia Doyle Lungi March 02, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Heaven forbid it should be "Herbst Happy Acres."
Patricia Doyle Lungi March 03, 2013 at 01:43 AM
Elderly people actually think and feel. I think this surprises younger folks. During Sandy we were aggravated, but sixty years ago, chances were that we couldn't always afford heat, so we made the best of it, Cold was no stranger. During Nemo, however, we were terrified, trapped for days behind the snow blocking our exits. We've become pawns in a political power play. We understand that. Surprised? We do understand. We were aggravated, we were terrified, and now we're sad - sad to have lost our Executive Director and our Board of Directors whom we trusted and loved as family. Nobody asked us what we wanted or needed. They simply told us that we had to make radical changes. We all come from full lives of raising children and working. It was already a drastic change to pick up the remnants of our lives and come to a senior residence, no matter how beautiful. Change is our enemy. We were enjoying peace and tranquility, Now we're living in chaos and confusion. We want, we need our Executive Director and our Board of Directors returned to us. You have victimized us. Please don't hurt us any more. We are thinking, feeling human beings - not plastic pawns.
Tom Kelly March 03, 2013 at 02:07 AM
Patricia, do you think your sentiments represent the majority of the people at Stern Village? I believe it's time to get your State Representatives and State Senator involved. At the end of the day, Stern Village comes under the auspices of the State, and not the town. I am sorry that your lives have been disrupted by politicians who are seeking to further their own agenda. I hope the residents of Stern Village remember it in November.
Patricia Doyle Lungi March 03, 2013 at 11:20 AM
Absolutely. When this first started we signed two different petitions, but they went unheeded. We seem to be the silent majority. However, we will be heard in November. Thank you for caring. It's so good to know that somebody hears us. I thought we were screaming in the wind.
Peter Preko March 04, 2013 at 02:32 PM
in a New York Times article this weekend, it is estimated that the Nazi's killed more than 15 million. Your reference to Hitler and the Nazi party is insensitive and biased.

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