Editor's Note: The headline has been changed with the addition of "their positions."
Trumbull's first selectman and the acting chair of the Trumbull Housing Authority say Harriet Polansky, Stern Village interim director, got the temporary job legitimately.
Since the THA chose Polansky earlier this month, critics have charged that she got the job because she is a friend of the Herbst family, even after she released a self-written detailed listing of her qualifications to Trumbull Patch.
Both First Selectman Tim Herbst and Acting THA Chair Russ Friedson said Polansky "read about what was going on" at Stern Village in the media and stepped up for the job. The THA interviewed her and found her qualified to be the acting interim executive director, Friedson said.
The acting chairman called her "gracious" for taking the job knowing it might be temporary.
Challenging allegations of politics in the selection, Herbst said Polansky is a democrat who has never donated to the Trumbull GOP.
In December 2012, Herbst did not reappoint some THA members and others resigned. The first selectman appoints the members of the THA. The new board then sacked its attorney, State Sen. Anthony Musto, and 12-year Executive Director Harry Wise, who is helping Polansky with the transition.
Wise is accused of mismanaging Stern Village during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 and failing to implement an emergency plan and have generators installed for more than a year.
Polansky is already pursuing both items, Friedson said.
He noted that Polansky is earning the same salary as Wise, about $70,000 a year. Polansky can also apply for the permanent position, the acting chairman said.
The New THA Attorney
At the same time, critics of the Stern Village changes have said Darrin Callahan, the new THA attorney, will cost too much and is underqualified for the job. Callahan works for , which represents the town in other matters.
But Friedson said the choice of Callahan complies the Town Charter, which he helped revamp as a member of the Charter Revision Commission. Critics cited a lack of experience based on Callahan's biography on the Owens, Schine & Nicola Website.
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Friedson there is more to Callahan than what's on the Web. The attorney has experience with Freedom of Information and election law. Callahan also charges a reduced rate, less than his usual $250 per hour.
"He has a very good, analytical mind," Friedson said.
Regarding FOI law, Herbst had said the old THA board failed to file minutes or agendas with the town for a year, a violation.
Friedson also clarified why he ruled the Stern Village Tenants' Association chairman out of order at the Feb. 13 meeting.
Resident Paul Littlefield was questioning Callahan's qualifications and had started to say that Callahan might be ordered by his firm to work against Stern Village residents.
Friedson then cut him off, calling the last comment a personal attack. The meeting minutes also reflect that exchange.
The acting chair also confronted the charge that the THA is not letting the public question its decisions. Friedson said the new board instituted a public comment section at meetings.
But comments are restricted to issues germaine to the operation of Stern Village, he added. Residents will also get a chance to vet all executive director candidates.
Completing the THA Board
Critics have also questioned Herbst's appointment of Stern Village resident Joy Meehan as the resident representative on the THA. Meehan was being threatened with eviction for smoking near oxygen tanks before being tapped for the board.
She is a temporary appointment until Stern Village residents vote for another representative, Friedson said. The election process for that job is still being worked out.
In addition to the upcoming election, the THA will be searching for a permanent executive director, which could take two to four months. There is also one opening left on the THA board.
Friesda added he does not expect everyone will be happy with the THA's choices but added that Stern Village is being improved and made safer.
"This is not a political board.... The only agenda is what's best for the residents," he said.