School Officials Defend Against Report

Steve Wright
Steve Wright
Retired Schools Supt. Ralph Iassogna returned to school again Tuesday night to defend against charges from Trumbull Internal Auditor James Henderson.

Henderson drafted a 16-page report mainly targeting the district facilities manager Al Barbarotta.

Specifically, Iassogna said he believed First Selectman Tim Herbst was supportive of schools' efforts to "do whatever it takes to open school on time and safely" after snow storms in early 2013. Schools opened several days earlier than other districts.

In 2011, there was no problem with hiring without a bid waiver, and Facilities Manager Al Barbarotta hired people to clear snow from town roofs without bidding it out. But feelings changed after winter 2013.

"I did authorize AFB [run by Barbarotta] to get the schools open safely and as soon as possible. We were the envy of the school districts," Iassogna said Tuesday night.

Regarding a charge that payment procedure was violated, Iassogna denied the Henderson's finding. "It took nine days to get payment to these vendors. I take exception. It's erroneous and misleading," the former superintendent said.

Business Manager Sean O'Keefe agreed. "It was processed on a normal basis."

O'Keefe added that normally bidding processes are followed. "I'm looking at enhancing processes constantly," he said.

Additionally, most of the money spent on snow removal has been reimbursed by FEMA.

Board members noted that removing snow quickly was important because it was a cold, snowy winter in 2011 and the roof had already collapsed at the Tennis Club of Trumbull due to too much snow.

In a letter to the school district after that, Herbst praised Iassogna, the town building official, the fire marshal, Custodial Services Head Steve Kennedy and Facilities Manager Al Barbarotta for the cleanup efforts, said Board member Tom Kelly. 

But the attitude changed after winter 2013.

Henderson specifically accused Barbarotta of having conflicts of interest and/or trying to steer work toward an energy company he managed. Barbarotta has sued Herbst for allegedly interfering in a contract to add to a Trumbull Loves Children Inc. building.

The Chairman of the Board

Departing Board Chairman Steve Wright, who is not running again, criticized all of Henderson's charges.

"We make an effort to be collaborative," Wright said. "We do not have to answer to the auditor."

The board uses tax money and comprises a large amount of the budget, but it is independent when it comes to how to spend its money, Wright said. Still, it should not work alone.

"That is no way to run a shop. You should cooperate with the people on the other end of Main Street. When people write reports based on lack of best evidence and authority to write the report, I find that troubling," Wright said.

He was referring to the Board of Finance not authorizing Henderson to audit the snow removal process.

"In three weeks [after the Nov. 5 election]  most of us will be gone," he added. Cooperation between the district and the town resulted in all-day kindergarten, a highly-praised pre-kindergarten program and made the district "stellar" in the state, according to the chairman.

It's also been recognized as financially transparent.

In the end, the school board decided to draft a response in time for its Nov. 13 meeting, and invited Henderson to attend.

"I wish we at least get a fair say on what goes in that report," Wright said. 
dave wilsoon October 30, 2013 at 10:11 PM
WOW -What arrogance displayed as the rats jump off the ship !! "We do not have to answer to the auditor" !! SNORTS our resident LIBERAL BOE. How about answering to the taxpayers ?? THE TAXPAYERS HAVE BEEN TAKEN FOR A RIDE BY RALPHIE, AFB, AND THIS ENTIRE BOE. They need to GATHER their cronies and leave already- especially since the conflicts of interest are everywhere- sons, friends, associates all shoveling snow under no bid contracts for $65 an hour. REALLY ??????
Joe Smith October 30, 2013 at 10:12 PM
You can all continue to try to blame the other side, but the facts are that the project was mismanaged, in part because of the conflict of interest. And everyone, from the Building Committee, to the BOE, town council, BOF, Superintendent, all the way to the 1st selectman should have worked harder to make sure the job was done right. Heck, you have a high school administrator, the vice-chair of the BOE, and the 1st selectman who could have discussed this over dinner one night (anyone remember that heart-warming photo of Little Timmy & Mamma Herbst making dinner together). Trumbull voters should remember that next week. The whole group screwed up and they don't look any better for pointing fingers.
Joe Smith October 30, 2013 at 10:19 PM
Little Timmy didn't care when Saint Al was clearing the snow so he could get some good press, but when the news started to get out to the public that the high school renovations had problems… well, then he had to pin it on AFB. Voting takes place next week, Trumbull. Make sure you let people know what you think about all the crocodile tears and finger pointing.
dave wilsoon October 30, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Mabel Buttress October 31, 2013 at 07:48 AM
Those of you calling him Little Timmy or mocking a picture of him and his mom only make you sound like angry asses. But then you're probably Dems and yeah, you are asses... but that's beside the point. If you have a real point to make, make it in an intelligent way or your comments will be dismissed. Perhaps you don't have a point and your childish rants is all you have??
Cindy Katske October 31, 2013 at 11:11 AM
Mabel Buttress, it cuts both ways. How about calling the former Superintendent Ralphie? Does not sound like a Dem to me, especially based on similar prior posts. Don't assume it all comes from one side. It is all very childish and actually pretty sad, in my opinion.
dave wilsoon October 31, 2013 at 12:49 PM
LIBS always want to change the subject when they are found guilty of malfeasance or corruption. Ralph , Ralphie or Pope, he still was unethical in dealing with his obvious conflict of interest. Moreover, he was disingenuous in his reasoning for all the no bid contracts he awarded. One would think the taxpayers would care about their $$$ being wasted. Not even T, the great blubberer from the BOF cares- SAD
Jim Meisner October 31, 2013 at 01:09 PM
"dave wilsoon" - why don't you use your real name ... then maybe you would be a little more civil and these discussions could be substantive rather than just name calling and insults.
Joe Smith October 31, 2013 at 05:01 PM
It's your money, people. If you want to focus on the names I use…fine by me. You really should be more worried about the fact that many of your public servants FROM BOTH SIDES turned a blind eye for 6 years to what was going on. The names I choose have nothing to do with that. And ignoring me (and the facts) because you don't like how I call it isn't going to change it either.
dave wilsoon October 31, 2013 at 05:09 PM
Joe is right The truth hurts the Tax and Spenders arguments- Facts are just plain facts
Mabel Buttress November 07, 2013 at 07:50 AM
Cindy, I completely agree!!
dave wilsoon November 07, 2013 at 01:20 PM


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