Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Greed & Power The Enfield Way ... Cops Detain Reporter / SPJ Member

News & Commentary

Greed & Power The Enfield Way:
Is Montessori School Property
Just A Driveway For Troiano & Flunky Mayor?

Are Official Acts Tainted By Development Moves?
How Did Zoning Chairman Get Cops To Detain A Reporter?

The Cool Justice Report
Sept. 26, 2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column was reported by Andy Thibault and Jim Brewer and was written by Thibault. It is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com

This is a story of greed, political manipulation and the little school that got in the way.

I have been following this story for more than two years. There are strong indications it will rise - or already has risen - to the level of political corruption.

Enfield, Connecticut, a town of about 45,000 residents, is south of Springfield and north of Hartford off Interstate Route 91. The median household income in 2000 was about $53,000. The median house value, which has increased significantly since that time, was about $125,000. Manufacturing trails education, health and social services combined slightly in providing employment. The town is about 90 percent white, with significant concentrations of Irish, Italian, French, Polish, German and English ancestry. The median age of residents in 2000 was 37.3 years.

Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 in Enfield, but they were able to regain power in 2003 only after a split between Republicans and conservatives including taxpayer groups. Democrats are led by Mayor Patrick Tallarita.

Tallarita's wife has entered into at least one development partnership. One project is very close to the Enfield Montessori School. Tallarita's wife Jeannette is a nurse and is not known for real estate expertise.

Jeannette Tallarita's partner in the Yale Court subdivision now under construction behind the Montessori School is M. Diane Frederick of Ridgewood Homes of Connecticut LLC. M. Diane Frederick's husband David Frederick is a major developer in the region. Diane and David Frederick confirmed this partnership to my associate, Jim Brewer.

Sources said David Frederick has expressed an interest in buying another parcel, of about seven acres, next to Yale Court and the Montessori School.

The first major move by the Tallarita crew upon his ascent to mayor last year was to fire the town manager, Scott Shanley. Shanley had no trouble landing a job in Manchester.

"The working theory, in the absence of any actual reasons provided by Mayor Tallarita or his party, is that the Democrats want to install someone more friendly to their plans," according to a posting by Chris Bigelow of Enfield, a blogger who runs the Connecticut Local Politics site. There are seven Democrats and four Republicans on the Town Council.

A malleable town manager might, for instance, go along with a recommendation not to replace the town's wetlands officer. Such a recommendation is currently before the town manager, sources said. With the Planning and Zoning and Wetlands Commissions controlled by the Council, this vacuum would allow certain developments to proceed without significant review or opposition.

The Golden Goose in this scenario is the 11-acre Montessori property, owned by the Felician Sisters. Acquisition of the Montessori land, along with Yale Court and the 7-acre adjacent property, would give a developer about 25 acres upon which scores of houses or a major condo complex could potentially be built. The combined properties could also allow for a right of way from Route 5 to a side street that already is densely populated.

Sister Francine Mary
Photo by Jim Brewer

For the past three years, the town of Enfield has mounted a relentless legal campaign to shut down the Montessori School. At best, the case appears to be based on a false premise. At worst, the constant battering of the Felician Sisters by the town seems to be the result of a conspiracy to manufacture false evidence.

When the sisters return from court, students ask them, "Are we still going to have a school?"

The sisters have operated the school at 1370 Enfield Street in various incarnations since 1944. They currently save the town about $350,000 annually in education spending. The site has operated as a Montessori School since 1965. And, since 1965, parents have dropped off their children in the parking area in front of the school.

At times this parking area would get muddy and cars would get stuck. In 1992, a parent dumped some gravel to alleviate the problem.

Eleven years later, the chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, Anthony DiPace, would find this to be a major problem.

Adspresso, 540 Enfield St.
Photo by Jim Brewer

Also around this time, as we began the new millennium, Anthony Troiano stepped out of the shadows. Troiano, who lives next door to the school, became one of its most vehement opponents. The developer and prominent businessman spoke publicly against plans to move the parking area away from the highway to the back of the school. He said "historic vegetation" would be destroyed. Yet, when Troiano developed the parcels that now house Enfield Federal Savings Bank and a health care center, it was OK to tear down an historic blacksmith shop. Others who tried to develop those parcels before him were unsuccessful.

When Anthony Troiano talks, people jump. For most, he is the straw that stirs the drink.

One exception is Sister Mary Anastasia, who has taught at Enfield Montessori for more than 38 years. Sister Anastasia told us she turned down Troiano's offer to buy the 11-acre parcel.

"He insisted that we have plenty of buildings across the street, and that we could solve all our problems by moving," Sister Anastasia said.

Troiano was not pleased by the refusal to sell.

"He told us," Sister Anastasia said, "we would run out of money before he does," an apparent reference to ongoing legal battles.

Mayor Tallarita said of his relationship with Troiano: "We're just neighbors."

In his latest whopper, Tallarita told Sister Anastasia he couldn't do anything, his hands were tied, related to the town's war against the Montessori School.

The Ancient Dirt Parking Area
Photo by Jim Brewer

Zoning enforcement officer Wayne Bickley, meanwhile, confirmed he received the personal, if belated complaint about the Montessori parking area from P&Z Chairman DiPace, his superior.

"We didn't want to hurt the nuns," DiPace told Jim Brewer, "but we gotta do what we gotta do."

And so the town issued a cease and desist order for parking at the school. No parking, no school. Last year, however, the Zoning Board of Appeals lifted the order. The ZBA noted the area had been used for parking for more than 40 years. Regulations passed after the school began operating do not apply.

Planning and Zoning responded by suing the ZBA.

Dipace also told Brewer that if the town loses its current Superior Court battle against the Felician Sisters and the ZBA, it will appeal. Judge Richard Rittenband is hearing the case.

A small compilation of recent legal bills shows the town has spent more than $15,000 to harass the Montessori School. This does not cover preparation and actual costs for a hearing on Sept. 12.

The town is paying upwards of $200 an hour for the zoning commission lawyers to misrepresent testimony by Sister Anastasia. For example, attorney Matthew Willis, of the firm Branse, Willis &Knapp wrote in a brief for the September hearing in Hartford Superior Court: "Even the Sisters themselves admitted that the Disputed Gravel Parking Lot was created in 1992."

This tripe gives lawyers a bad name. Will they take any case, now matter how frivolous or lacking in merit? Talk about living off the public trough…

"There's something deeper than a scrawny little parking lot," Sister Anastasia said. "Out of a clear blue sky they say we have a newly-constructed parking lot. We wondered where it was.

"Nothing was said about gravel for 10 years," Sister Anastasia continued. "It's stupid. You don't see any gravel any more. It's dirt."

We have met many nice people in Enfield recently. Some of them like our inquiries, some apparently don't. We pressed DiPace about his involvement in the Montessori complaint. We didn't get to talk with him about the smooth sailing and waivers his wife got from the zoning commission for a coffee shop proposal at 540 Enfield St. The waivers include about $2,000 in savings for not having to submit a site bond and an undetermined savings for not having to submit a survey. A zone change from residential to commercial passed unanimously. Someone paid a $90,000 down payment, and Enfield Federal Savings holds a $70,000 mortgage, according to town records. An estimated $20,000 has been allocated for site improvements. The shop will be called Adspresso Cafe.

It was only indirectly, through the Enfield Police Department, that we became aware of DiPace's feelings.

Some time after leaving Town Hall Thursday, Sept. 21, my associate Jim Brewer was accosted by police officers from about four Enfield cruisers. They blocked his path and with no probable cause detained him illegally for approximately 30 minutes. They asked him if he knew how to get to Route 91, e.g., get out of town. As they focused on Jim, yelling at him and trying to intimidate him, they told a woman who was trying to report a fire to go away. Among the officers on the scene were a sergeant and a captain.

Police stated, among other things, that Dipace had met with the chief and other officials and had filed a stalking complaint. There is no basis for such a complaint and Dipace should probably be arrested for filing a false complaint.

No one ever told Jim not to call or visit. He took photographs only while on public property.

Atty. Norm Pattis of Bethany put the town on notice that they violated the civil rights of a citizen and reporter and that they will be held accountable.

"We are not yet prepared to bring an action against the town and / or its officers, but will do so without reservation should either of our clients be impeded once again in the exercise of their First Amendment rights," Pattis wrote today to Chief Carl Sferrazza and Town Manager Matthew Coppler.

Andy Thibault, author of Law & Justice In Everyday Life and a private investigator, is an adjunct lecturer of English and a mentor in the MFA writing program at Western Connecticut State University. He also serves as a consulting editor for the literary journal Connecticut Review. Website, www.andythibault.com and Blog, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
Jim Brewer, a former civil rights litigator, is a photojournalist and a contributing writer for The Justice Journal and Inquiring News. Brewer served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, commanding a military police unit at a nuclear weapons site in Germany, and as a prosecutor in New Jersey. Both writers are members of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Related posts:

Propaganda From Enfield Town Attorney & Friends

Town Has Spent More Than $15,000 To Harass Montessori School

Courant Covers Town's Demented &Costly Crusade Against Enfield Montessori School

Enfield’s ‘Deep Connole:’ Follow The Subdivisions

Enfield Legal Dept. Needs Tuneup


Sister Francine Mary's Letter To Gov. Rell

Enfield Mayor Full Of ...

Nuns Aren't Taking It Any More...


Anonymous said...

Jeanette Tallarita is a kind, generous and honest person. It is a pleasure to know and spend time with her. To throw dirt in her direction is uncalled for, irresponsible, and "Rush Limbaugh-type" journalism.

It has been said that blogs are a coward's way to communicate. If you or anyone has information that can be substantiated, you have a responsibility to step forward now. Otherwise one can only summize that your intentions are less than honorable and this is just hot air.

Anonymous said...

Your statement "They (the nun's) currently save the town about $350,000 annually in education spending." doesn't add up. Use the correct formula.
Total education budget/the current student population = the cost per student. Use that generally accepted formula with the current number of students and then use it again with the current number of students + 33 (33 is the number of Montessori students who would go to Enfield schools). Get the difference and see that the real savings is (roughly $1500 per student).

Anonymous said...

You just did the very thing you think is so cowardly to do. To post your comment anonymously makes us think perhaps this was posted by her new business partner or perhaps a family member?

Anonymous said...

If there's a parking lot directly across the Montessori School, why is this a problem for the school? Also the Enfield St. School has increased its parking space in recent years as well as the Parkway Pavillion. Have they also been harassed? The Felician Sisters had schools in the same location for many years before the Troiano's moved in. Perhaps the Troiano's are the poor sports on this issue since the nuns refused to sell them their property. Let's look at the real culprits in this disgusting problem.

Anonymous said...

Just opened my mail to another anonymous piece regarding Tallarita, Fredrick, and Troiano. Once again my hands are tied because the person sending me this information doesn't have the nerve for whatever reason to come forward. I know that I was stacked against at PZZ meetings but I did what I felt was right and came forward and spoke. It's now your turn to speak up so that we as a community can stop the political BS that is hurting each and every tax payer while the above mentioned continue to fly under the radar because you are intimidated. If you can send me this information, then why won't you reveal who you are. I am inclined to believe that you are caught between a rock and hard place because of a position that you hold possibly within the town government.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Anonymous | 1:00

How dare you ever make a statement such as "It has been said that blogs are a coward's way to communicate" after you leave your post sent as anonymous,you and only you are a coward you agree with tallarita becuase you are nothing but a "coward" or a friend of the family. So please "you have a responsibility to step forward now." famous words of your speaking, come forward and identify yourself for all of us to see. Or perhaps this is the infamous Mr. tallarita? Just one more thing i can reccomend to you, you should attend grammar school again as you can't even spell summarize correctly. thank you for your time.

Anonymous said...

Shame on all of you labeled anonymous. The real culprits here are the Felician Nuns. These self-annoited deliverers of justice have allowed Thibault and his gang of disbarred lawyers and miscreants unfettered acccess to them and thier facilities.

Jim Brewer, a disbarred lawyer and labeled stalker is a hired goon of Thibault. Brewer should be serving time in Danbury for some of the stunts he has pulled, to include having several restraining orders placed against him. Thibault lives in Litchfield, with speed dial to the local police because his slanderous innuendos and blantant lies have made him enemies. Simply put, he is just a liar.

And then we have the ever-humble Felician nuns who have allowed these men access to thier facilities, children, records, lawyers and themselves. These followers of Jesus have maligned and scorned decent men with baselss attacks on thier families and beliefs.

As a catholic school graduate, I preferred when the nuns whacked you a couple of times while defaming you to your face. But these nuns prefer to stalk behind your back and ruin the very decency you have worked so hard to establish; using conspiracy nuts the likes of Brewer and Thibault. And all in the name of Jesus. How kind?

Anonymous said...

Jeanette is a kind and decent person how did she know what politics would do to her family. I'm sure she is heartbroken over all of this. People shouldn't be mean to her for what he did and that is of course if he did it.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that you investigate alot of the decisions made by the planning and zoning commision, the town council controls the zoning commision, they appoing the members, therefore if you control the council, you control the zoning commision, I know for a fact that the democrats have used the zoning commision to reward allies, this is just the tip of the ice berg. Look at the gigantic building big frank was allowed to build on elm st. Look a little out of place??? A few years earlier an application was denied for Sam Hubster to sell the property to cvs so they could put a cvs where enfield federals new bank is,forcing Sam not to sell it to cvs,Than along comes Big Frank Troiano, he buys it and anything goes there, like I said just the tip of the iceberg. Keep digging, you will find alot more. Troiano, Tallarita, Dipace, just the beginning, theirs alot more involved, though they are the leaders of corruption.

Anonymous said...

Dude, you are in serious need of a life.....wow!

Anonymous said...

Why do I get the feeling that it is the same person defending the corrupt officials,no facts in defense are offered instead just immature name calling. How can you defend trying to run nuns and their school out of town? Enfield needs to wake up, and rein in their corrupt leaders and residents. It has been a widely known fact for years that this exists, and thank god Andy has devoted his time, and courage to finally expose it. I just wonder why the republicans sit by complicitly and watch it happen, those who know and do nothing to stop it are just as guilty.

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