A recent press release from John Michaels, Chairman of the Board of Finance, contains several allegations and innuendoes of improprieties regarding a $1000 expenditure related to a reception after the screening of the “Home of the Brave” film at the US Capitol. I would like to set the record straight on what actually occurred.
The movie showing at the US Capitol was a decision made by the “Home of the Brave” Committee. We asked our Federal delegation to sponsor it and help advertise it to all legislators and staffers. We also invited educators, lawyers, and non-profit organizations to the showing. We even had some people from Southbury join us, including our Town Historian, John Dwyer. In all, approximately 80 people were expected to view the showing and attend the following reception.
However, the logic of requesting the expenditure come from the Economic Development Commission (EDC) was not a result of who was there, or invited, but our ability to say that the film had been shown at the US Capitol – it gave the documentary more credibility for future marketing of the Town of Southbury as a tourism destination – surely an EDC objective. “I think it has potential to be used to draw more positive attention to Southbury and be used to generate interest in Southbury as a historic tourism location,” are the words I used when asking Jennifer O’Neill, the Chair of the EDC to consider funding this from the EDC budget in an April 11th e-mail. The event was scheduled for May 8th, and, unfortunately, Ms. O’Neill did not reply to my request until May 21st at which time she inquired as to the balance of the EDC budget and asked for clarification of who was to be invited to the event.
During subsequent e-mails, it became clear that Ms. O’Neill did not understand the connection of this event to attracting business activity to Southbury, and so the item was charged to the same budget line item that had been used to fund the production of the movie, which fell under the Southbury Celebration title. The Board of Finance, at a March 28, 2012 joint budget meeting and at the suggestion of the First Selectman, had added an additional $10,000 to this budget item, recognizing that there may be additional events and celebrations that may be planned in conjunction with the Town’s 225th birthday – and the 75th anniversary of the year the Nazi bund progress was stymied.
The allegation that the money was expended in violation of the Charter is just not true. The additional $10,000 was expressly added to the Southbury Celebration line item to cover just these types of expenses – unforeseen costs related to celebrating the Town’s anniversary/birthday celebrations - and were over and above what had been requested by the Southbury Celebration Committee for their fireworks display and accompanying program.
It should also be noted that the EDC finished the past fiscal year with an unexpended balance of $8,356 out of an original $10,000 budget. Up to date budget balances are always available from the fiscal office, upon the request of any Chairman of a Commission or Committee, including the EDC.
If Mr. Michaels truly believes these violations of the Charter and Town fiscal practice or protocol occurred as he states, why did he not discuss it or bring it to the attention of the Board of Finance at their August, September or October meetings? In fact, one wonders if any of the Finance Board members have been apprised of this action by their Chairman. It is sad to see the unveiling of such blatant politically motivated actions on the part of a well-respected, long-serving member of the Southbury community of elected officials.