Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Patrizz settlement begs questions

Journal Inquirer
March 17, 2006

The recent announcement that the lawsuit involving former fire marshal Anthony Patrizz was close to a settlement is probably a good thing. It should bring to a close an ugly chapter in recent Vernon politics. And while the details of the settlement will probably be sealed, the public has the right to some answers.

The lawsuit named Mayor Ellen Marmer, Councilwoman Marie Herbst, Town Administrator Laurence Shaffer, Fire Chief Robert Kelley, volunteer firefighters Chris Hammick, Kenneth Kalos, and Will Graugard, and resident Roger Pugh. The Journal Inquirer reports that "in the lawsuit Patrizz claimed that Graugard, Hammick and Pugh, an ally of the mayor, tarnished his reputation and sought to remove from office by a 'campaign of deliberate lies and untruths.'"

While specifics and dollar amounts of the settlement may be kept private, Vernon citizens have a right to know whether there was "hanky panky" in high places.

Patrizz was suspended Nov. 18, 2003, for two weeks after Shaffer and Kelley reported to police that he had willfully destroyed or stolen fire department computer records. Did he? Police found no wrongdoing and refused to file criminal charges.

The suit contends that Marmer promised to fire Patrizz if she was elected. During the election recount, a JI photographer allegedly stated that Kelley told him that the Democrats wanted Patrizz out. Kelley denied it. Someone is lying. Who?

There are too many questions to sweep the whole ugly mess under the rug for some financial payoff. And if there is a settlement, it certainly appears that the lawsuit must have had some merit. And what about the reputations of those whose names were dragged into this mess? What about their families? The truth needs to come out.

And, finally, who pays? Vernon taxpayers ultimately will pay the tab on this no matter what. Should they?

If the long investigation into this matter has found that the lawsuit has merit, one wonders why the taxpayers of Vernon should pay. If the investigation has found no merit in the lawsuit, one would wonder why we should settle at all.

John Anderson