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Letter to the Editor: "Woodbridge Residents Ask, Who's Minding the Store?"

A letter to the editor of Bethwood Patch.

If you didn't read the newspaper this summer, you missed a big story--front page--about Woodbridge. At a special meeting of the Fire Commission on July 17th, it was revealed that over the last five years our part time Fire Marshal Michael Cavanagh has been overpaid more than $50,000 by working fewer hours than required. (Kudos to the new Fire Commission Chairman for discovering this discrepancy.)
This situation is disturbing for those of us who watch how our local government operates.
Mr. Cavanagh will have a chance to explain himself at a Pre-termination hearing scheduled in response to a letter from the First Selectman to the Fire Commission dated August 31. But in addition to an explanation for this employee's confusion over his work hours, we think the townspeople are entitled to answers to several other questions:
1. First Selectman Sheehy must have been alerted to this situation before the July 17th meeting took place, since he authorized Dave Ryan (the Town Labor Negotiator) to attend the meeting. Yet there was no action from the First Selectman until days after the story hit the newspapers more than a month later. If the New Haven Register had not reported the story, would the First Selectman have taken any action?
2. Selectman Beth Heller, who serves as the liaison from the Fire Commission to the Board of Selectmen, also attended the July 17th meeting of the Fire Commission at which the Fire Marshal's lapse was discussed in detail. At the next Board of Selectmen meeting on August 8th, she made absolutely no mention of this issue in her liaison report to theSelectmen. What possible reason could she have for omitting this important information from her report?
3. The Board of Selectmen has received no official communication on this matter fromthe First Selectman. Shouldn't the First Selectman keep his colleagues informed so they don't learn about serious Town issues from the newspapers?
4. According to the minutes of the July 17th Fire Commission meeting, the Commission simply told the Fire Marshal to increase his hours from 20 to 28 per week, and to submit time sheets. They made no mention of repaying the salary he received in error. Why wasthe Commission's initial response to this serious situation so weak?
5. Who is the Fire Marshal's direct supervisor? Does the Fire Marshal undergo an annual performance review? If not, why not? If so, then how could this situation have been overlooked for five years? What is being done to ensure that Town employees are being supervised properly going forward, so that this cannot happen again?
We asked these questions at the Board of Selectmen meeting last week, and are waiting for answers. Who's minding the store?

Chuck Pyne
Cathy Wick

Dorothy McCrum September 21, 2012 at 08:33 PM
There are two sides to every story. I personally support Mike Cavanaugh. He's done a good job as fire marshal. Having recently spoken with a former Fire Commissioner, I was told that there were many weeks when Mike worked MORE than his required hours. And, I feel that if there has been a lack of communication between him and the Commission, there would be blame placed on both sides. It is sad that this witch hunt has reached such media proportions, while it could have been settled much more quietly.

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