Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bizarro Comics

Has Nothing
On Enfield Mayor

News & Commentary

Beat Goes On
At Mayor Cocoa Puffs'
State Labor Department Outpost

Suspicious Phone
Device Found
By Underling Of Tallarita,
Director of Facilities Operations

It's The Same Tallarita
Under Investigation
By Chief State's Attorney
For Corruption In Enfield

The Cool Justice Report
June 26, 2007

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com It was held a few hours out of respect for unions that truly represent their workers.

Like many Americans, we enjoyed Superman comics as youngsters. Good triumphed over evil in fun adventure stories.

And who can forget the Bizarro comics spinoff? For those with fading memories, Bizarro tales included Superman defending invasions from a Square Earth populated by virus-spouting Bizarros from the Underverse. Good triumphed over the bizarre.

In a similar vein, we have become more acquainted with the Adventures of Enfield's Mayor Cocoa Puffs - aka Patrick Tallarita -- the raging grocery shopper who populates the state Labor Department in his spare time.

Following Tallarita's checkout-line rampage at Shaw's Supermarket in Enfield on Memorial Day, we wondered what it must be like to work in his domain at the Labor Department in Wethersfield. Now, we know.

What follows is a truly Bizarro tale of an intimidated work staff struggling to perform job assignments in a hostile environment.

Last week, we were alerted to the quandary faced by staff in the facilities management section of the state Labor Department. A suspicious object - initially believed to be a listening device - was discovered by a terrified worker. Even if it is not a wiretap, a facsimile device left and intended to harass a subordinate or co-worker is serious misconduct.

Why was the device placed on this worker's phone? Who put it there?

The worker's job had been threatened on another occasion and he was unable to secure a transfer.

"He's very worried - he's scared," a co-worker said.

The worker reported his discovery to a shop steward for the Administrative & Residual bargaining unit.

"He [the worker] found something on his phone, and he photographed it," said union representative Alan Sylvestre.

Sylvestre said he would bring the matter to union President Paul Krell. They will likely discuss whistleblower protection for the worker, Sylvestre said.

The worker has information that might be relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation, including relationships with contractors and possible vacation trips.

A spokeswoman for the state Labor Department said no complaint had been made to Human Resources. The worker and his colleagues said they could not trust the Labor Department to handle the incident.

The worker reports to Tallarita, director of facilities management for the state Labor Department. Tallarita - who in addition to his $99,000 state job serves as mayor of Enfield -- is among the subjects of an ongoing corruption investigation by the Chief State's Attorney's office. Among other duties in the state job, Tallarita oversees local leasing and selects and supervises service contractors. The politically-connected state employee also served as treasurer for the campaign of Congressman Joe Courtney.

While at the Labor Department headquarters, Tallarita spends a lot of time sequestered in his office close to a personal cell phone and brief case.

The worker who found the suspicious device fears retribution for the discovery, union representative Sylvestre said.

"There's no question he has a fear of retribution - any reasonable person would share his fear," Sylvestre said.

The worker has been at the same desk and cubicle for 20 years. He does not know of anyone who might have used his desk during that time. The device he found was a little round disk with a wire.

The worker and his union have compiled a record of management [Mayor Cocoa Puffs] harassing him. For example:

1. Wrongly accusing him of going to the liquor store at 10 a.m. and then saying, "Just forget about it" when the ID of the actual early shopper was disclosed. No apology was ever given.

2. Reprimanding him for "excessive sick time" [7 days, single incident following car accident and hospitalization for fractured skull].

3. Denying 4 hours time stipulated in the union contract for an annual picnic -- twice, the second time when this single parent got replacement tickets for an event at an amusement park with his children.

"I don't want him [Tallarita] sandbagging me for something I didn't do," the worker said. "He doesn't have any scruples.

"Thank God for the union."

The worker sent the device via inter-office mail last week to a union colleague with technical expertise at another state agency. He said it might have taken three or four days to get there.

The colleague told The Cool Justice Report today he had received - but had not opened - the envelope. He said he would secure the package for safe-keeping and return it to the worker at the Labor Department or give it to law enforcement officials.

"I don't want to point any fingers at anybody at this point," the worker said.

He said he looked at photos of similar devices last week and the equipment he found looked a bit like an amplifier for a headset. He said the colleague at the other agency agreed that was a possibility.

The worker said he does not use a headset and is not hard of hearing.

It seems this incident could or should be a police matter. State police routinely are called to state agencies to sweep for suspected bugs or wiretaps. The worker understandably did not want to give the device to anyone at the Labor Department. He said he wanted to protect himself but did not want to subject himself to retaliation by reporting the incident to police. Police and other authorities have since become aware of the incident.

"Almost anyone can buy the equipment to tap into someone's phone conversations," said Bernie Soldate of Simsbury, president of the Connecticut Association of Licensed Private Investigators and an expert in electronic listening devices.

In what he calls a "generic phone tap," Soldate said the equipment necessary is simply a digital recorder -- which can be purchased online or even at an office supply store - and a modular (telephone) jack that intercepts the phone line by having two plugs, one for the phone to come in and another for it to continue to the wall jack. The device also has a connection to plug an audio wire that connects to the digital recorder. Many of these devices are sophisticated enough to be voice activated.

"It is a simple task and the size of these digital recorders are so small, many the size of a pen," Soldate said. "That makes hiding the device easy and often undetectable."

It is illegal to tape a telephone conversation in Connecticut without the consent of all parties. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-570d states: Consent should be in writing or should be given on the recording, or a verbal warning that the conversation is being taped should be included in the recording.

Anyone who records a telephone conversation without the consent of all the parties is subject to liability for civil damages, as well as litigation costs and attorney fees. In addition, it is a felony punishable by imprisonment for one to five years for anyone who is not a party to a conversation to mechanically overhear or record that conversation, including telephonic and cellular or wireless communications and face-to-face discussions, without the consent of at least one party, according to Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-187, 189.

Exceptions for employers include quality assurance monitoring. Employees and callers generally are notified that this is part of the job.

"If anyone wants to listen in an official capacity, that's OK," Sylvestre said. "But if somebody does something covert, that leads me not to think it's official business."

The privacy of cell calls is also protected. The federal wiretap law was amended in 1986 and 1994 to expand the definition of electronic communications to include cellular and cordless phone conversations. Under the statute, cellular and cordless phone conversations can be recorded with the consent of one party.

Tallarita's temper is well known. Associates describe him as vindictive. The mayor and high-ranking state worker went berserk in the checkout-line at Shaw's Supermarket in Enfield on Memorial Day, threatening a witness against him in the ongoing criminal investigation. The witness, Jack Mancuso, has retained Hartford attorney A. Paul Spinella to preserve material evidence for judicial proceedings and to investigate subsequent actions by Enfield police.

Tallarita scared young children as he screamed and made an obscene gesture. Tallarita admitted to the Journal Inquirer -- when asked about whether he had made an obscene hand gesture to Mancuso: "Possibly, I could have."

Tallarita has declined to respond to inquiries from The Cool Justice Report since last November. His wife, Jeannette Tallarita -- a nurse and a partner in a controversial real estate development behind the Enfield Montessori School -- had police call The Cool Justice Report to say our inquiries were not welcome.

"If you call again, you will be arrested," an Enfield police officer said last fall.

On another occasion, four police cruisers detained a reporter who was reviewing land records.

The Memorial Day incident earned Tallarita the moniker "Mayor Cocoa Puffs" after the blogosphere noted, "Enfield Mayor Flips Out on Witness in Grocery Store Checkout Line," above a box of Cocoa Puffs cereal.

Tallarita was quick to note he would be seeking higher office.

Investigators have received numerous tips and documents about public officials and others in recent months.


[Chief State's Attorney's Office
Public Integrity and Political Corruption Bureau
300 Corporate Place
Rocky Hill, CT 06067
Phone: 860-258-5805
Fax: 860-258-5804]

Areas of inquiry include but are not limited to:

* Alleged sale of government services including votes for personal gain.

* Alleged manipulation or alteration of land records.

* Alleged steering of a lease to a crony.

* Work allegedly done by a state contractor at a private residence.

* Alleged acceptance of gratuities including vacation trips and merchandise.

* Alleged falsification of time records by town employees working less than full shifts.

See prior posts in archives of www.cooljustice.blogspot.com

The Cool Justice Report
Andy Thibault
Phone: 860-690-0211
Fax: 860-567-9119


a rose is a rose said...

i don't understand. i don't understand at all. why, if all of this is true (and it sure seems to be), is he still in office?

if the enfield police are helping him, why?

can one be a mayor and work full time for the state?

Anonymous said...

What a load of crap. I know this guy and he is the laziest state worker I have seen. He pratically camps his butt all day on the smoking deck at the Labor Department. Check that one out Andy!

Super Trooper said...

How ironic if Tallarita is tapping a worker's phone, when his phones, and Troiano's and many others have all probably been tapped by law enforcement for months!

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see what this year's Enfield 4th of July parade brings. Since Mayor T has been in office, he's taken to spraying parade onlookers with a giant water gun as he and fellow council members march. They must think that is amusing.

Well, they certainly doesn't need a water gun to soak the Enfield taxpayers. And the mayor's recent actions have hosed more than enough people. So it will be interesting to see if he still strolls down Enfield St with that same pompous attitude he's famous for.

Anonymous said...

> His wife, Jeannette Tallarita -- a nurse and a partner in a controversial real estate development behind the Enfield Montessori School -- had police call The Cool Justice Report to say our inquiries were not welcome.

> On another occasion, four police cruisers detained a reporter who was reviewing land records.

So is Mrs Mayor running the Police Dept now? Since when is it illegal for anyone to ask questions or review land records? Those are public records. Would hope the Enfield Police have more important matters to tend to than serving as a personal watchdogs for mayor.