Rescheduled When Town Attorney and Board Chair Fail To Appear
In the fall of 2018 Bethel Board of Finance Chair Robert Manfreda sent an email to the members of the Board of Finance asking them to provide any information about fraud in Bethel, to help him complete, on the Board's behalf, a questionnaire from the firm doing the 2018 annual audit. Mr. Manfreda instructed the Board members to not use the reply-all feature in their email replied, which could trigger a violation of state open meeting laws. Board member McCorkindale alerted Manfreda that she believed the email soliciting individual replies from all Board members was itself a violation of open meeting laws, and that a discussion about possible fraud should be held in public, not through a private series of emails, but no such meeting was held.
When in 2019 Mr. Manfreda again sent an email message to the Board, once again making the fraud information request as part of the town's 2019 annual audit, Ms. McCorkindale again raised her concern with Mr. Manfreda, and he again declined to hold the discussion about possible fraud in a public meeting. McCorkindale then attempted to have the fraud questionnaire added to the next regular meeting agenda, and Mr. Manfreda declined. At that meeting on Nov. 12, 2019, Board member McCorkindale made a motion to add the issue onto the agenda. Mr. Manfreda took a vote and was joined by members Dalene Foster and Wendy Smith in refusing to add the item.
Board member Bryan Terzian then noted "It's just really not sitting well with me that we're not gonna hear a member's discussion. In twenty-five years in municipal government, I have never seen a board not willing allow a member to add something to the agenda to discuss. I don't believe there's any nefarious thoughts here. I think if a member has a question about a document that was sent to the Board, they should be allowed to discuss it."
Mr. Manfreda then stated that he had offered to meet privately with Ms. McCorkindale to discuss the letter and that she declined.
After Mr. Manfreda then began explaining his view about the letter and its function in the audit process, Ms. McCorkindale asked if Mr. Manfreda had reversed himself and added the item to the agenda for discussion.
"No," Mr. Manfreda replied. "we're not going to discuss it."
Ms. McCorkindale then filed her complaint with the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, which set a hearing for February 19th.
Ms. McCorkindale attended the February 19 hearing at the Freedom of Information Commission, and testified regarding her concerns, but the hearing has been continued to March as neither Town Attorney Martin Lawlor nor Mr. Manfreda appeared at the scheduled hearing.
Readers wishing to see the entire exchange can view it online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOz_dN535Y0/.
Board of Finance member Cynthia McCorkindale testified at the Feb. 19th Freedom of Information Commission Hearing