Local Trumbull Attorney Anthony Musto said he won't fight the Housing Authority's Dec. 20 vote to fire him.
First Selectman Tim Herbst recently replaced two members of the authority's board, and those replacements and a current member voted 3-0 to remove Musto, who had worked for the authority for 10 years.
"I'm not going to make some crazy, futile argument out of this," Musto said Wednesday.
The two new board members are Russ Friedson and Joanna Leone.
They replace Judith Stern and Bob Marconi. Board member Edward Coyne resigned (citing family reasons) before Dec. 17 and his seat remains vacant.
In a recent statement, Herbst criticized Stern for calling a Dec. 17 meeting in which the board voted 3-1 (member Gail Hanna against) to approve a two-year contract extension for Wise, including a clause that allows him to fight for six months if he is removed "for cause." If successful, the town pays his legal fees.
But that meeting and contract extension are considered void because of the board's Dec. 20 vote. Wise's contract expires in July 2013.
Wise has been executive director for 10 years, Musto said. "As far as I can tell he's been doing a great job," he said. The clause has been in Wise's contract for years, but the challenge period was limited to six months this time around.
Wise's attorney negotiated the contract with Musto, who added that Wise agreed to forgo a raise to his $70,000 annual salary. It was not because of performance issues, Musto said.
Herbst also objected to the meeting itself, calling it illegal because it was not noticed on the town's Website or in the Town Clerk's Office, a violation of the state's Freedom of Information laws and the town charter. Twice in 2012 the town cancelled meetings for being improperly noticed.
There are also no minutes posted on the town Website for any of its 2012 meetings.
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Musto replied that Dec. 17's meeting was regularly scheduled and noticed in Stern Village, a practice that was done for years. It was "not a secret meeting by any stretch," Musto said.
"They didn't know" they had to post it in Town Hall and online, Musto said of the authority. That rule was changed in 2008, he said.
The Executive Director's Job Duties
Herbst blasted Wise primarily because he said was uncooperative with Trumbull's emergency management officials.
Two reportes from OEM and the Fire Marshal's office stated Wise did not assist residents in seeking shelter during Hurricane Sandy after the power went out and temperatures plunged at night. (The village runs on electric heat.)
Further, Wise reportedly said residents with medically complex issues would be removed from the village because it has independent, low-income apartments, and does not provide assisted living. He also said he does not keep tabs on people in the complex.
The Fire Marshal's office noted that the tenant list was reportedly six months out of date.
Herbst reported that residents had complained about Wise but Musto said he only heard grievances from tenants being evicted.
Musto, who is also a local tax attorney and a state senator, compared Wise's job to that of an apartment building manager. "Many of the [tenants] have their own cars. It's not assisted living," Musto said.
Still, Herbst pointed to the Emergency Response Management Plan drawn up in 2011, stating that Housing Authority staff must "prepare and protect" the community by keeping residents informed and warning residents about a storm and reminding them to stock up on food, medicine and water beforehand.
In case of a tornado, the staff must move residents to shelter if necessary, according to the plan.
Musto said he had never seen the document and could not comment on it.
Finally, Musto also called Herbst's comments on Stern "reprehensible."
"She's a super sweet lady. She's well-liked and well-respected," Musto said.
Defending the New Members
Although Friedson and Leone are republicans, as is Herbst, the first selectman said he chose them for their qualifications.
"This is not a power grab," Herbst said Wednesday.
Friedson was chairman of the Board of Finance. "He will ask tough questions. He will demand accountability," Herbst said.
Joanna Leone impressed Herbst with her knowledge of the Housing Authority, Herbst said. And current member Gail Hanna worked at Stern Village and was chief of staff for a former first selectman.
Member Thelma Burr is a democrat. All boards and commissions must have minority representation under the town charter.
The next Housing Authority meeting is Jan. 29 in Stern Village, on Hedgehog Road.