Whistleblower stands by claims, lawyers up

THE GREENWICH TIME

Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
Updated 10:02 p.m., Thursday, October 27, 2011

With her credibility under attack by some of her former colleagues and members of the local political establishment, a whistle-blower who recently resigned from a town recruitment panel is standing by her claims that some fellow committee members made inappropriate remarks about minorities and certain socioeconomic classes during the group’s meetings.

The whistle-blower went so far as to hire lawyer Mark Sherman, who Thursday said his client was never interviewed by the town or asked to give a statement on the matter before resigning from the Selectmen’s Nominations Advisory Committee.

“She reported her concerns through the proper channels,” Sherman told Greenwich Time on Thursday. “She has no dog in this fight and leaves it to the town to do what it feels is appropriate with her information.”

Responsible for recruiting volunteers for town boards and commissions, the nine-member committee has been ordered by First Selectman Peter Tesei to undergo sensitivity training by the town’s affirmative action officer.

All three members of the Board of Selectmen released a statement Thursday reaffirming the town’s handling of the allegations, while seemingly trying to repair the reputation of the remaining committee members.

“These are individuals respected as leaders within our community and leaders who we do not believe would engage in the type of activity or the kinds of comments alleged,” the statement read. “Be that as it may, once such an issue is raised, we must address it and see to it that we continually improve our sensitivity to the concerns of others and to any allegation of inappropriate comments.”

Tesei, who is a Republican, declined to comment beyond the statement.

Democrat Leslie Lee, who has been the committee’s chairman for about five years, characterized the statement by the selectmen as reassuring.

“I think that everybody is very pleased with the vindication the Board of Selectmen has given to the committee that our work was always professional and without a taint of bias of any sort,” Lee said. “We were very pleased to have their support.”

Town officials have been reluctant to discuss what specifically triggered the complaint. But in an interview last Friday with Greenwich Time, Selectman Drew Marzullo shed light on the nature of the allegations, which he emphasized he heard secondhand.

When a Hispanic resident’s candidacy for a town board came up for discussion, one committee member is alleged to have raised doubts about the person’s availability because they might otherwise be cleaning houses, according to Marzullo.

Sherman denied that his client balked at requests to put pen to paper with specific allegations.

“Not true,” Sherman said.

When asked about the specific nature of his client’s allegations, Sherman said it would be inappropriate to discuss them in the newspaper.

Not that the whistle-blower is calling for a full-fledged investigation, but Sherman said his client would be forthcoming with all of the relevant information.

“She’s willing to cooperate,” Sherman said.

Staff writer Neil Vigdor can be reached at neil.vigdor@scni.com or at 203-625-4436.
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