Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Final vote by Windsor Town Council removes Fromer from wetlands agency for cause

In the shortest meeting to date, approximately 15 minutes, the Windsor Town Council on Monday night received the findings of fact drafted by Town Attorney Vincent Oswecki, Jr., and made a motion to remove Robert Fromer for cause for one reason: Fromer "impedes the ability of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission in performing its duties to the public." That one reason is bolstered with 24 enumerated bases of support.

The findings are remarkably crafted to reflect the breadth and depth of testimony of the various people who testified, town employees, members of the agency and representatives of applicants. The findings refer to his interference with the wetlands agent by making "incessant demands . . . including over 600 e-mails;" his constant disparagement" of the wetlands agent creating "a hostile work environment;" his disparaging remarks about fellow commissioners "discourag[ing] volunteerism;" "he uses the Commission as a tool to press his personal, radical agenda on nearly every issue, disparaging anyone who disagrees with him;" his repeated insistence on pursuing matters beyond the agency's jurisdiction; his creating a "hostile, dysfunctional atmosphere . . . by intimidating other members of the Commission from fully participating by demeaning them and demeaning the applicants;" his "domineering, arrogant and hostile behavior resulting in repeated disruptive clashes with other members . . . staff . . . other representatives of applicants appearing before the commission; his "grandiose sense of his rights" and his view that "other members of the Commission, staff and others as targets to be dominated and humiliated."

The findings culminate in conclusions such as: "he does not possess the social norms of behavior to constructively participate on the Commission;" and "a man who aspires to be the 'most hated man in Windsor', 'Bad Guy', or 'Public Enemy Number 1', exhibits disdain for the general public and common good and cannot be left in position of serving the Town of Windsor."

One basis lays out a reference to the orderly process envisioned by the Wetlands Act, set out in the legislative finding in Section 22a-36 of the General Statutes, and how Fromer treated the regulations as "a spider web to advance his agenda and to trap and delay applicants." Fromer's predatory web was implicitly contrasted with the oft-repeated statutory reference in that same statutory finding to the "wetlands and watercourses [being] an interrelated web of nature."

The motion was made and seconded. It was no surprise how the Town Council would vote. But the Council used its discussion on the motion instead to reach out in two interesting ways. Deputy Mayor Alan Simon spoke directly to the residents of Windsor -- he apologized for Fromer's appointment and for the waste of town time and money to remove him. I was moved by this gesture. When is the last time you heard government apologize? (How many decades did it take for a Congressional apology for the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II?)

Council member William Herzfeld addressed the judiciary, with the hope that whatever limitations the Obeda case may have imposed in that 1980 Connecticut Supreme Court decision would not be an obstacle to Fromer's removal thirty years later.

The vote of the Town Council followed: 8-0.

The Town Council was remarkable in its diligence and fortitude in reviewing the mass of documents submitted on both sides and conducting lengthy night hearings.

But I return to my original thoughts: is this the only avenue left to agencies and towns? Certainly there are towns unwilling to expend the time and money to remove a commission member. My final thoughts in the next post.

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