As published in the Record Journal Sunday May 5, 2013
By Andrew Ragali
WALLINGFORD — Town Councilor Nick Economopoulos believes he should have been allowed to attend an April 29 meeting at which Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. and leaders of the town’s health and water departments met with state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials.
Dickinson said the meeting was held to discuss the status of contaminated wells at five homes on South Broad Street. It enabled DEEP officials to explain the process of obtaining state funding to extend public water to the area, he said.
On April 24, Dickinson sent a letter to Economopoulos, a Democrat, explaining why he would not be allowed into the meeting.
“The meeting scheduled for Monday involves personnel from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Wallingford Health Department and Wallingford Water Division,” wrote Dickinson, a Republican. “It is an administrative meeting and as such attendance is limited to those parties.”
“Something leads me to believe they don’t want us to know what’s going on,” said Economopoulos, who has advocated for two of the five families dealing with contaminated wells — the Sherwoods at 1179 S. Broad St., and the Lincolns at 1175 S. Broad St.
Nicholas Sherwood and Harold Lincoln also attempted to attend the meeting but were not allowed in. Several fellow councilors said they understood the mayor’s position.
“I’ve been on the council for 30 plus years, and the mayor’s policy has consistently been that councilors don’t normally go to these meetings unless initiated,” said Town Council Chairman Bob Parisi, a Republican. “I have absolutely no problem” with Dickinson’s decision.
Town Councilor John LeTourneau, a Republican, said “I agree with the mayor.”
“He handled that right,” Le-Tourneau said. “It’s not a councilors’ place to be. It’s not a function for us. We don’t get into the micromanaging of things.”
Because town councilors are not members of the administration, they are “not entitled” to attend administrative meetings unless invited, said Town Council Vice Chairman Vincent Cervoni, a Republican.
In agreement with his fellow Republican council members was Tom Laffin, who said the efforts of Economopoulos are “usually for good.” Laffin said he just doesn’t always “agree with the strategy.”
Because the meeting was administrative, Town Councilor Jason Zandri, a Democrat, doesn’t think Dickinson was wrong in not permitting Economopoulos to attend.
But Zandri, who said he is also “very sensitive” to the issues of the Sherwood and Lincoln families, understands why it would have made sense for Economopoulos to attend the meeting as a “watchdog in the room.” Zandri said the Sherwood and Lincoln families feel “they’ve gotten the runaround” from the town after they found their wells to be contaminated with trichloroethylene 18 months ago and asked the town to hook them up to the public water supply. Zandri said he understands why the families “would have felt more comfortable if a councilor was present to represent them.”
“I don’t see the problem with the families inviting one watchdog of their choice to these meetings,” Zandri said. “Just to listen and not interject.”