Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Former public works chief takes Vernon mayor to task

By Max Bakke
Journal Inquirer
Published: Monday, August 17, 2009 11:09 AM EDT

VERNON — George Fetko, lately the public works director in Ellington, blasted his former employer, Republican Mayor Jason L. McCoy, for acting unprofessionally in his failure to hire a fulltime replacement following his resignation from a similar post in March.

“On March 10, 2009 I gave notice that I was resigning as Vernon’s director of public works. The first priority for Mayor McCoy and the town administrator should have been to search for a qualified, experience director to run the department,” Fetko wrote in a letter to the Journal Inquirer Friday.

He added: “Six months later, the Public Works Department still has no fulltime director. This reinforces the reasons why I left — this administration does not have the experience or the knowledge to recognize the importance of this department.”

Fetko declined to discuss the letter publicly, and has been otherwise mum about his reasons for leaving Vernon. His departure earlier this year, combined with a grievance he filed in spring against the town over accrued vacation and sick time, have fueled speculation among McCoy critics that the pair’s working relationship was strained around the time of Fetko’s resignation.

Fetko’s letter goes on to accuse McCoy of ignoring two public works employees who volunteered to take over for him while the mayor sought a fulltime replacement. Meanwhile, David Tomko is presently serving as the interim public works director.

When reached by e-mail for comment Friday McCoy said that Fetko told him that no one on his staff was qualified to serve as public works director on an interim or permanent basis and that no existing employees would be interested in applying for the post fulltime.

McCoy also dismissed Fetko’s letter as inaccurate and praised Tomko’s work as a qualified temporary department head, and mentioned newly-hired Assistant Town Administrator Peter Graczykowski, whom McCoy said has a strong background in public works learned from past employment with the city of Springfield.

The vacant fulltime director’s position has received a markedly higher level of scrutiny that past McCoy appointments after the disclosure that former councilman and past mayoral candidate Robert Kleinhans, a fellow Republican and longtime friend to McCoy was seeking the job.

McCoy failed to hire Kleinhans at a council meeting in July, when two Republicans, Dan Anderson and Nancy Herold, joined four council Democrats to block the hire.

Democrats have called the potential hire overtly partisan and have questioned Kleinhans’ credentials as it relates to the public works job.

Kleinhans, who lives in the Niantic section of East Lyme, owns the Vernon construction company, Bunnell Construction Co. Inc., and serves on the town’s Economic Development Commission and the Rockville Downtown Associations’ board of directors. He is East Lyme’s deputy first selectman, though he is reportedly not seeking re-election this fall.

He was on the Vernon Town Council from 1997 to 2005, and ran for mayor in 2005. He also twice ran for a seat in the state legislature.

The council is slated to meet Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. It’s unclear if McCoy intends to bring a candidate for the director’s position before the council at that time

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