Saturday, May 05, 2007

Enfield Malfeasance Saga Trail

Many other posts, comments
in archives ...

Key Courtney Campaign Figure
& Special Deals With Giant Retailer

Cool Justice Report Exclusive:

Enfield Mayor Tallarita's
Bountiful Kitchen

"I Got A Deal At Bernie's"

Were Offers Of Gifts Or Gratuities
Tied To Official Acts?

Questions Surround System
Of Special Deals For Certain Customers

The Cool Justice Report
Nov. 5, 2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report,

Enfield Mayor Patrick Tallarita is presiding over a special system with Bernie's appliances in which town employees and others can buy discounted goods, the top executive with the giant retailer confirmed. Tallarita has also bragged to visitors about a "good deal" he received from Bernie's, according to several sources who have seen new, high-end appliances in the mayor's renovated kitchen.

Enfield Mayor Patrick Tallarita

These findings are the result of a month-long investigation by The Cool Justice Report including interviews with dozens of sources, many of whom have known the mayor for years and / or have visited his house.

Bernie's President and owner Milton Rosenberg -- son of the founder -- told us the store has "private sales" for town of Enfield employees.

"I just can't keep track of all these sales, but we have them," Rosenberg said. "We [also] do some for the Fire Department maybe."

We stopped in Enfield Bernie's recently and asked about private sales for town employees.

A sales associate said, "Sure, you want me to put you on the list?"

We tried unsuccessfully to talk to Tallarita about any deals with Bernie's for selected customers in Enfield. We wanted to ask him, among other things, whether he accepted or rejected any such deals and whether he knew of anyone else who accepted or rejected any such deals. We also wanted to ask him whether he might be concerned about any possible appearances of impropriety or potential violations of state and federal laws.

In contrast, several other council members were easily accessible and took our calls.

When he's not being mayor -- or sometimes when he is -- Tallarita, a Democrat, is also director of facilities operations for the state Department of Labor and treasurer for the congressional campaign of Joe Courtney.

In his spare time, Tallarita can also tend to the family development business. Projects in that enterprise include the Yale Court subdivision behind the Enfield Montessori School.

The Courtney - Rob Simmons race has set fund-raising records, surpassing the $3.57 million total the opponents raised in 2004. Courtney had raised about $1.8 million and Simmons about $2.5 million through September of this year for the current race in the second congressional district.

The Tallarita controversy could impact Courtney in the final hours of a very tight race. Courtney's selection of Tallarita as a top lieutenant brings into question the quality of the candidate's vetting process.

At one point, Tallarita considered himself a possible contender for Congress. He decided against a congressional bid for the 2004, citing family commitments and a need to focus on his responsibilities as mayor, The Journal Inquirer reported.

"He's a guy who has too much talent for Enfield," fellow Councilman Patrick Crowley, a close Tallarita ally, told The JI. "He's a great leader."

Tallarita's state job pays about $99,000 annually. Part of his job is to formulate goals and objectives. He also selects and supervises service contractors. To get this job, Tallarita apparently had to demonstrate considerable knowledge of relevant agency policies and procedures. He was required to have two years experience in a managerial capacity in leasing, acquisition or management of property. [See job description below.]

The Enfield mayor also has a role in selecting landlords and repair vendors for local labor department offices. We understand he took an active role in discussions with top labor department officials over what offices should be kept open or closed.

Before joining the labor department, Tallarita was an employee of the state Departments of Consumer Protection and Public Works.

As a council member and mayor, Tallarita votes on local matters including whether to give certain businesses tax breaks. The town of Enfield has authorized about 20 tax abatements since 1979, according to the Journal Inquirer. These abatements have ranged in length from three to seven years. Companies granted tax abatements include Enfield Federal Savings & Loan, The Martin-Brower Co., The Connecticut Wood Group, Sterling Machine Co., Camerota Truck Parts, Bernie's appliance chain, Hallmark, and Lego Systems Inc.

If Northeast President Rosenberg's comments are any indication, Bernie's appliances was very appreciative of the break.

After the Enfield Town Council granted Bernie's a tax abatement, the store offered a special deal for selected customers. Sources said these customers included town employees, contractors and town officials.

"The whole council got a special thank you," a town official familiar with various offers told us. "One deal was cost plus 10 percent.

"When you're a public official," the source commented, "you have to decline that."

Indeed, state and federal laws prevent public officials from accepting gifts or gratuities that are tied to official acts.

Town council member Scott Kaupin, a Republican, said he heard about a coupon, letter or invitation from Bernie's, and that "some actually went through with it."

"That's an ethics violation -- no quid pro quo for any tax abatement," Kaupin said. "I brought it to the [former] town manager [Scott Shanley] and he was unable to substantiate it. I don't remember seeing or getting a coupon -- I never got any offer from Bernie's."

Kaupin went on to say he bought an air conditioner from Bernie's and paid full price.

Council members Doug Maxellon and Red Edgar, both Democrats, told us they were unaware of any special deals.

Shanley, who was fired in a power play by the current town council after serving Enfield for 10 years, now works as town manager in Manchester.

Scott Shanley

"I'm not doubting Scott Kaupin," Shanley told us, "but that [special deal inquiry] doesn't ring a bell. I don't recall that."

Shanley said he was very happy to be in Manchester now, adding, "I wish the community [of Enfield] well."

Tallarita is a busy guy who likes to have meetings at his house. And why not? By all accounts, it's a great place. Sometimes he even shows movies on a big screen. Whether it's a Democratic Party caucus, an interview with a town manager candidate or just a gathering of pals, anybody who is somebody is there.

We tried to each Tallarita at his job and at his house for about a week.

State Labor Department staff said Tallarita was not in Tuesday and Wednesday. Tallarita did not respond to a message left with staff or voice mail on Wednesday and Thursday. Staff said he was at work on Thursday.

On Friday, staff said Tallarita was on another line. His office then transferred our call to a labor department lawyer.

Tallariata did not return calls to his house over the weekend. On Saturday we left him a message saying we were running a story about special deals from Bernie's for selected Enfield customers, and that we had spoken with Rosenberg. On Sunday, after we left another message, a woman at the Tallarita residence said, "We don't know what you are doing or who you are." She then advised Thibault not to call again.

Enfield police officer Doug Montas followed up with a call to Thibault, advising that Jeannette Tallarita had made a formal complaint. Jeannette Tallarita, a nurse, is Patrick Tallarita's wife and a partner in Ridgewood Homes of Connecticut LLC, developer of the Yale Court subdivision behind the Enfield Montessori School.

"If you call again, you will be arrested," Montas told Thibault.

Threat of arrest also followed our attempts to question Tallarita's political ally, Planning & Zoning Chairman Anthony DiPace, in this ongoing series of stories. In addition, police routinely show up when we go to town hall to view or pick up public records. On one occasion, four police cruisers stopped Brewer and detained him for about 30 minutes.

Sources told us Patrick Tallarita routinely boasts of the fine appliances he got from Bernie's for his house.

"It's all top of the line stuff from Bernie's," one visitor said. "He [Tallarita] said it was from Bernie's … When you go into his house, it's obvious who took advantage of it."

Some of the various appliances have been described as a commercial quality stove and oven, a high-end dishwasher and a wine cooler refrigerator. What kind of a deal was it? Maybe Tallarita was proud to say he found the new store in town to be a great place to shop. Terms of the transactions for these goods were not immediately available.

"It's stainless steel, top of the line," another visitor said. "He [Tallarita] bragged about a good deal at Bernie's. He's narcissistic."

Yet another visitor said Tallarita remarked, "I got a deal at Bernie's."

We asked Rosenberg of Bernie's: "Did your company sell appliances to Mayor Patrick Tallarita at or below cost?"

Rosenberg responded, "I can't comment on that ... I am having trouble hearing you."

Then, he hung up the phone.


In the beginning...

Bernie's was founded by Bernard "Bernie" Rosenberg, in 1947. An enterprising gas station owner, Bernie, had many friends in the community and after the war, realized the opportunity to help people purchase their first television set. Initially, he sold televisions and radios from his gas station and as customer demand increased, Bernie opened his first showroom, Bernie's TV and Appliance, in Bloomfield, Connecticut in 1953.

Bernie, with the help of his son Milton and other family members, continued to grow and expand the business. Bernie's is now New England's largest family-owned Audio, Video, TV, Appliance and Bedding retailer. Bernie's son Milton Rosenberg, the current President, now owns the company.

Continued dedication to Customer Satisfaction, combined with broad selection, competitive pricing, incomparable service (including 7-Day a week normal delivery) and an alert, enthusiastic and professional sales force are the philosophies that created Bernie Rosenberg's success. Quite simply, Bernie's success revolves around taking care of customers in extraordinary ways and the pride that each and every Bernie's associate derives from this.

Today, Milton continues to carry out his father's legacy through his commitment to leading the business based on the values of Caring, Quality and Integrity. Although low pricing is part of the Bernie's approach, the broader focus is on service to ensure customer satisfaction in order to develop a strong repeat business. Bernie's demonstrates this commitment to customer satisfaction with a long-standing excellent rating from the Better Business Bureau. The company's delivery capacity includes up to 400 daily deliveries with 75 installations in over 250 communities, 362-days a year, 7-days a week throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Director of Facilities Operations
State Labor Department

PURPOSE OF CLASS: In a state agency this class is accountable for directing staff in the management, operation and/or maintenance programs of state buildings and grounds (including leased buildings under department jurisdiction).

SUPERVISION RECEIVED: Receives administrative direction from an administrative official of higher grade.

SUPERVISION EXERCISED: Directs lower level staff as assigned.

EXAMPLES OF DUTIES: Directs staff and operations in the areas of building services and contract compliance; formulates goals and objectives; develops or assists in development of related policy; interprets and administers pertinent laws; evaluates staff; assists in preparation of section budget; maintains contacts with individuals both within and outside of section who might impact on program activities; prepares reports, correspondence and procedural manuals; administers a quality control and compliance program; prepares and reviews plans and specifications for building renovations and/or alterations; selects and supervises service contractors; may direct staff and operations of trade shops and grounds sections; may develop and maintain a preventive maintenance program; performs related duties as required.

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED KNOWLEDGE, SKILL AND ABILITY: Considerable knowledge of relevant agency policies and procedures; considerable knowledge of relevant state and federal laws, statutes and regulations; considerable knowledge of state of the art building operations and maintenance procedures and techniques; considerable knowledge of trades including building, custodial and grounds; considerable knowledge of energy conservation methods and techniques; knowledge of and ability to apply management principles and techniques; knowledge of tenant agency requirements; considerable interpersonal skills; considerable oral and written communication skills; skill in prevention of deterioration, obsolescence and destruction of buildings and operating equipment; considerable ability to prepare plans, specifications and cost estimates for equipment, services and repairs.

EXPERIENCE AND TRAINING: General Experience: Two (2) years' experience in a managerial capacity in leasing, acquisition or management of property.

Managerial capacity is defined as full time managerial responsibility for major programs. Incumbents will have supervisory responsibilities but the emphasis should be on management activities: planning, organizing, directing and controlling resources of a major subdivision at an agency or organization.

SPECIAL REQUIREMENT: Incumbents in this class may be required to travel. This cancels the existing title of and specification for the class of Public Works Director of Facilities Operations in the same Salary Group MP 65 approved effective June 19, 1992.

Oct. 26, 2006

JUST NEIGHBORS - Enfield Mayor Patrick Tallarita, asked repeatedly by The Cool Justice Report to describe his relationship with Big Anthony Troiano (far left), said, "We're just neighbors." In the foreground is Connecticut House Speaker Jim Amann. The Troianos -- Big Anthony and Lillian -- celebratd their 44th anniversary with the help of Amann and Tallarita's parents, Kay and Pat Tallarita. At far right is Mayor Tallarita's sister, State Rep. Kathy Tallarita. [For a while it was hard for us to tell whose anniversary it was anyway ... then we hired a translator to read the caption.]
Troiano is a developer whose projects include Enfield Federal Savings. The politically powerful Troiano has been a vehement opponent of the Enfield Montessori School.

Cool Justice Report Exclusive:
Enfield Federal Savings Party Time
With State Rep. Kathy Tallarita

News & Commentary

How Might Campaign And Ethics Laws Apply?

The Cool Justice Report
Oct. 26, 2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report,

Kathy Tallarita is a state representative for Enfield's 58th District. She has held that position since 1999, and is a member of the legislature's Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. She is also a newly hired Business Development Representative for Enfield Federal Savings and Loan LLC.

Tallarita is the sister of Enfield's mayor, Patrick Tallarita, a fellow Democrat.

In her bio at the Connecticut General Assembly website she is listed as assistant majority leader and a member of the Select Committee on Aging and the Internship Committee. There is no mention of any financial training or experience other than her work on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. A member of the Enfield Democratic Town Committee since 1996, she served on the town council from 1997-98. From 1992 to 1998 she worked as a legislative assistant at the Connecticut House of Representatives.

Tallarita is in the midst of a re-election campaign against Republican challenger Susan Lavalli-Hozempa, who has an accounting background and works for Kaman Corporation in Bloomfield as a Credit analyst.

An edition of Enfield Federal's newsletter, "The Connection," hit the streets in September. "All the Bank You'll Ever Need" announced the July hiring of State Rep. Kathleen "Kathy" Tallarita.

The item is the lead story for the customer newsletter, at the top of the front page. It features a photograph of Tallarita and the headline: "The Bank Welcomes Kathy Tallarita as Business Development Representative." The newsletter is mailed to all EFSB customers according to EFSB Vice President Scott Nogles.

In addition to the article, the bank sponsored what Nogles called a "Private Wine Tasting" on Tuesday Oct. 17, 2006 - less than a month before the upcoming elections.

This event was by invitation only, Nogles said. He called it "a business development event."

"This was our way of showing our pleasure with the community," Nogles said.

Only business or commercial customers were invited, Nogles said.

Tallarita was introduced to the group. Nogles said she was there as an employee of the bank and not as a state representative candidate.

Photo by Jim Brewer

"This was not a Tallarita event," he said.

Could the timing of the distribution of the newsletter and the wine tasting violate state election laws? Is the newsletter a campaign document? Was the wine tasting a campaign event or a testimonial? Should the distribution of the newsletter and the hosting of the party have been reported to state election officials?

Title 9 of the Connecticut General Statutes and in particular Chapter 150 cover elections and election campaign financing.

CGSA Section 9-333a(7) defines "Business entity" as: Whether organized in or outside of this state: Stock corporations, banks, insurance companies, business associations, bankers associations. . .

Section 9-333b(a) defines Contribution as: Any gift, subscription, loan, advance or deposit of money or anything of value, made for the purpose of influencing the nomination for election, or election, of any person or for the purpose of aiding or promoting the success or defeat of any referendum question or on behalf of any political party…

Subsection (b) defines what IS NOT a contribution: A loan of money made in the ordinary course of business by a national or state bank; Any communication made by a corporation, organization or association to its members, owners, stock holders, executives or administrative personnel, or their families…

Section 9-333k defines Party committees; designation as campaign treasurer. Limitation on multiple committees. Fundraising events and testimonial affairs.

Subsection (b) states: As used in this subsection, testimonial affair means an affair held in honor of an individual who holds, or who is or was a candidate for nomination or election to, an office subject to this chapter. No testimonial affair shall be held without the consent of such person. No testimonial affair shall be held for a candidate, or for an individual who holds any such office during the term of such office, except to raise funds on his behalf for purposes authorized in this chapter … Any fund-raising affair for any candidate or individual who holds any such office for any purposes other than those authorized in this chapter shall be prohibited. Any person who organizes such a fund-raising affair shall be in violation of this section.

Section 9-333o Business entities. Contributions or expenditures for candidate or party prohibited. No business entity shall make any contributions or expenditures to, or for the benefit of, any candidate's campaign for election to any public office or position subject to this chapter or for nomination at a primary for any such office or position, or to promote the defeat of any candidate for any such office or position, or to promote the success or defeat of a political party. . .

The bank newsletter prominently cites Tallarita, the new business development representative as a state representative for eight years and as an assistant house majority leader for two years.

The article states, "She will again be on the ballot for State Rep. this November."

Tallarita is not cited for any finance or business acumen, but rather is quoted saying, "I bring to Enfield Federal Savings Bank a wealth of knowledge of the community and its people, which serves well for the position of business development."

The article includes a paragraph about Tallarita's family involvement in politics including work as an envelope licker and phone dialer. The article also mentions her brother Patrick Tallarita's "political calling" as a two term Enfield mayor.

Enfield Federal Savings is a "business entity" as set forth in CGSA Section 9-333a (7) which lists "bank."

The newsletter, "The Connection" is mailed to all bank customers. The entire article centers on Tallarita's "sixteen years of working in the political arena," that she is a state representative and "she will again be on the ballot for State Rep. this November."

Would a reasonable-minded citizen find any difference between this article and a campaign flyer?

One political flyer mailed for Tallarita has in quotes under her photograph, "Leadership with Integrity."

Tallarita did not respond to several phone messages over the past two days. A bank employee said Tallarita was not in the office today. Messages were also left at her home and state capitol office.

“It sounds suspicious to me,” said Lavalli-Hozempa, Tallarita's opponent in the legislative race. “The timing is supect, and it is questionable conduct."

A state election official, advised of the event held at Enfield Federal Savings, asked, "‘If it wasn’t a testimonial affair according to the statute, what was it?”

State law prohibits a business entity, including a bank from making any contributions or expenditures to, or for the benefit of, any candidate's campaign for election. Enfield Federal Savings -- by producing, writing, photographing and mailing this article to the public calls into question whether a violation of State Election laws has occurred.

The wine tasting, held by invitation only to business and commercial prospects of the Bank, appears to runs into the law controlling fund-raising events and testimonial affairs.

Bank vice president Nogle -- who was at the event -- said only bank chairman Peter Dow spoke to the group on Oct. 17. Nogles said Dow introduced Tallarita as the bank's business development representative. Nogles refused to say whether Tallarita was introduced as a state representative running for re-election.

A close examination of what was said at this affair could be presented as evidence to help determine whether it violated state election laws.

The event was held about three months after Tallarita began working at the bank, during the height of an election campaign. Was she the only employee singled out for mention by the chairman of the board of the bank?

Nogles could not cite any previous event like the wine tasting.

Cool Justice Report Exclusive:
How To Make Two Lots Out Of Zero Lots

News & Commentary

Tallarita-Frederick Combine Has Magic Touch

The Cool Justice Report
Oct. 19, 2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report,

Even by what we have come to know as Enfield standards, the infamous Yale Court subdivision took an extraordinary path to fruition.

This case is perhaps emblematic of how some projects go through the approval process liked greased lightning, while others languish and still others are subjected to fierce litigation and harassment.

One cannot cite Yale Court without mentioning several players including Enfield Mayor Patrick Tallarita. As Tallarita consolidated political power in recent years, his family got into the development business.

Tallarita's wife, Jeannette, a nurse, formed a partnership called Ridgewood Homes of Connecticut LLC. Her partner is M. Diane Frederick. M. Diane Frederick's husband David Frederick is a major developer in the region. Diane and David Frederick confirmed the formation of this partnership.

Ridgewood Homes of Connecticut LLC developed a lot off Yale Court, behind the Enfield Montessori School. A map of the property among the Enfield land records states the following: "Not a buildable lot until required frontage is provided."

The Road To Yale Court: Caveat Emptor
Photo by Jim Brewer

Despite this barrier to development and the apparent lack of any demonstrated legal hardship, the Zoning Board of Appeals granted a frontage variance for not just one, but two lots, on July 25, 2005. The ZBA approved "a frontage variance of 43.1 ft. (106.9 ft. proposed Lot A, 150 ft. required) and a frontage variance of 11.7 ft. (138.3 ft. proposed Lot B, 150 ft. required) for a proposed subdivision of the subject parent lot," according to Enfield land records.

When we picked up these records the other day, a police officer appeared at the records office. Later, as we left, the officer was waiting in the parking lot.

This welcome wagon greeting followed an incident Sept. 21 when we visited the land records office. On Sept. 21, 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.

Construction of the two houses, meanwhile, has been ongoing at the Yale Court subdivision. The exteriors appear to be virtually complete and it appears one of the houses has been sold.

Variances such as the one that allowed construction at Yale Court are not necessarily uncommon, according to a leading legal authority on zoning issues, Hartford attorney Joseph Hammer of Day Berry & Howard. Hammer was not told of the political overtones connected with this saga before he offered his expert opinion.

"As a very general rule," Hammer said, "the ZBA can give a variance for many of the requirements. Still, it seems some review could be done by town staff or Planning and Zoning. They could determine whether there is compliance related to various regulations such as sewer, water and grading."

We also spoke with another zoning expert, attorney Tim Hollister of Shipman & Goodwin. Like Hammer, Hollister was not told of the political forces at play in these matters.

"If a parcel is labeled 'Not a buildable until lot until required frontage is provided,' " Hollister said, "you have to change the lot, change the requirement or get a variance. The question is, was the legal hardship self-created? If that's the case, then you lose and you don't get the variance."

According to maps on file at Enfield Town Hall, a significant portion of the property appears to be wetlands. A utility easement granted by the Planning & Zoning Commission on March 8, 2006 apparently allows development of an area including wetlands.

These actions are striking in that when a neighboring property owner benefited from a ZBA action, the Planning & Zoning Commission sued the ZBA. That neighbor, the Enfield Montessori School, persuaded the ZBA to overturn an improper cease and desist order that threatened to shut down the parking lot and, in effect, the school.

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 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.

Are we watching a movie here along the lines of a current hit, The Illusionist, where, "Everything you see is a trick, it is not real?" Has the Tallarita-Frederick Combine performed the ultimate illusion, turning property with little or no frontage and an abundance of wetlands into homes and / or, potentially, condos?

Stranger things have happened in town, including the crusade to shut down the Montessori driveway and school. Even now, Enfield taxpayers foot the bill for a case before the state Appellate Court. In that matter, the Enfield Historic District Commission stymied plans to move the Montessori parking area away from busy and unsafe Route 5 to a secure location away from the highway.

Tallarita, an employee of the state Labor Department, is also treasurer for Democrat Joe Courtney's congressional campaign against incumbent Republican Rob Simmons.

Phony Tony One, Phony Tony Two And Roger The Stooge

News & Commentary

Enfield's Dynamic Dirtbags Strike Out Again

The Cool Justice Report
Oct. 17, 2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report,

NEWS ITEM: A Superior Court judge ruled in September that -- despite a full-court press by the powers that be and their flunkeys in town government -- the Felician Sisters who run the Enfield Montessori School could keep their parking area. Curious comments were made in the aftermath.

The most bizarre comment was made by Anthony DiPace, chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission.

"What we're looking at is a safety concern -- and that's it," DiPace told The Journal Inquirer.

With this comment, DiPace exposed himself as a fake, a phony and a fraud.

DiPace The Coward never stepped forward when he had a chance to make the school parking area safer. DiPace had a chance to help when the Felician Sisters presented a traffic engineer's report to the Historic District Commission, showing that a proposed looped driveway and parking area farther from Route 5 would prevent back-ups and lessen safety risks.

Nor did any other town official appear to support a plan for improved safety.

DiPace had chosen instead to file an anonymous complaint, falsely claiming that the existing dirt parking area by the highway was illegal.

The town government -- instead of protecting its children -- sent Assistant Town Planner Roger The Stooge Alsbaugh to the Historic District Commission.

Alsbaugh had told the zoning enforcement officer -- incorrectly -- that Enfield Montessori School expanded illegally within its existing buildings. He also carried water for Big Anthony Troiano, next-door neighbor and virulent foe of Enfield Montessori. Roger The Stooge argued that a parking lot toward the rear of the school would "reduce the areas of vegetation … and permanently change the character of the remaining site open space … "

Historic vegetation has been a long-time and grave concern for Troiano.

Big Anthony Troiano, as recently as this week, is reaching out to the media, inviting selected press to his cabana and pool area for a viewing of the Enfield Montessori School. Troiano is also - incorrectly - calling the improved parking plan an expansion. Will Big Anthony be offering a cigar to any special guests who might show up?

Perhaps Big Anthony meant what he said to the Historic District Commission a couple years ago:

"The school refused to accept the commission's ruling. It's like a teacher telling a child no. Why does the school continue to return again and again when they have been told that the application is not appropriate for the Enfield Historic District … Once this paving is accepted, no one can stop the school from fulfilling their intent to asphalt their backyard total. This is their way of coming back through the back door to the large addition to the school built.

"The school made their own problems," Big Anthony Troiano continued. "If you wish the school to grow as it has in the past, the most sensible thing to do is find another location out of this Historic District to build a brand new beautiful school. Or do the most obvious thing. Use the empty buildings across the street owned by the Felician Sisters."

The chairman of the Historic District Commission, attorney Richard Tatoian, is a close associate of Big Anthony Troiano and a board member of the bank Troiano developed, Enfield Federal Savings.

How might Tatoian be conflicted in this case?

The Historic District Commission's denial of Enfield Montessori's plan for a safer parking area is before the state Appellate Court. Troiano can thank Enfield taxpayers again for funding his cause.

Attorney Ken Slater of Hartford's Halloran & Sage is representing the Felician Sisters.

Breaking News & Commentary

Finds Commission Cited Rules That Do Not Exist
Montessori School Safe - For The Moment

The Cool Justice Report
Sept. 27, 2006

[For background,
see post immediately following,

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report,

The Enfield Montessori School has been rescued from the clutches of the venal Planning and Zoning Commission and its fellow marionettes. Hartford Superior Court Judge Richard Rittenband smote the sledgehammer that has been pounding the school, its children and the Felician Sisters for several years, ruling Tuesday that an old dirt lot is just an old dirt lot.

"The good ladies of Enfield of prevailed, absolutely," said the lawyer for the Felcian Sisters, Ken Slater of Hartford's Halloran and Sage.

"This is not a complex case," Rittenband wrote in his decision, Docket No. CV 05-4008771, Enfield Planning & Zoning Commission et al vs. Enfield Zoning Board of Appeals et al. "This gravel is merely maintenance or repair of an existing use and not an expansion thereof."

The town of Enfield has spent tens of thousands of dollars harassing the school. A full accounting has yet to be made.

"Is use of the parking area a legal pre-existing non-conforming use?" Rittenband asked in his 15-page decision. "The short answer to this question is yes ...

" Â… Was the addition of gravel in 1992 an illegal expansion of a non-conforming use? The short answer is no Â…

" Â… The Court would add that common sense would indicate that since the school was in operation from the mid 40's up to today but certainly up to 1966, it is logical to conclude that parents taking their children to the school and picking them up would have to have an area of off street parking in which to park ...

"Â… The plaintiffs have failed to specify any portion of the Zoning regulations that would require a special permit to apply the gravel to the parking area Â… There are no regulations requiring site plan or special permit approval to maintain and use an existing area. The parking lot of the defendants does not have new or expanded parking area. Suffice it to say that the existing unpaved parking area does not require a special permit."

Regarding assertions by Planning and Zoning that the Felician Sisters needed a permit because they had gravel dumped on a muddy lot, Rittenband wrote: "None of [the regulations] apply to the maintenance of adding gravel to the subject parking area in this case."

Rittenband affirmed a decision of the courageous Zoning Board of Appeals: The graveled parking lot is not in violation of the zoning regulations and that further approvals are unnecessary.

The ZBA ruling led to the Planning and Zoning Commission to promptly sue the Felician Sisters and the ZBA. Anthony DiPace, chairman of the P&Z, said his commission would appeal any adverse ruling by Rittenband.

The ongoing litigation and harassment has been on severe drain on operations of the school, its students, their parents and the Felician Sisters.

Read the Judge's Decision - PDF File.

NOTE FOOTNOTE IN JUDGE RITTENBAND'S DECISION, Page 4, in which he cites misrepresentation by Planning & Zoning Commission counsel and asks, "Is this entire dispute about a load of gravel being placed on the area of which no one complained for eleven (11) years?" You have certainly scratched the surface, Judge. A.T.

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,

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.

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