FAIRFIELD — Joseph Michelangelo has been officially terminated as Director of Public Works.
First Selectman Mike Tetreau said he terminated Michelangelo Friday after completing the evaluation process required by the town’s charter.
According to the charter, department heads can only be terminated for cause after charges are developed and the employee is given the chance to respond to those charges in the presence of an attorney. Tetrau said Michelangelo did so last week, and that he reviewed Michelangelo’s responses before moving forward with his termination Friday.
Tetreau declined to share the details of the town’s charges or Michelangelo’s responses, but said that the final decision was made based on “management issues.”
Reached for comment, Michelangelo’s attorney Eugene Riccio said his client was limited in his ability to respond to the town’s charges due to ongoing criminal proceedings.
“Mr. Michelangelo was not able to defend himself against the accusations made by the town of Fairfield because of his pending criminal case.” Riccio said. “When it comes time to defend himself in the criminal matter, he will not be operating under the same restrictions.”
Michelangelo was charged with forgery and illegal dumping on Aug. 8 after a two-year criminal investigation. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Sept. 18.
Tetreau said it still remains to seen whether or not these criminal charges will be proven.
Questions have swirled as to why Tetreau terminated Scott Bartlett soon after the arraignment, but kept Michelangelo on administrative leave. Tetreau explained that the town’s charter requires a formal process for the termination of department heads, but not for employees at-will, such as Bartlett was.
Tetreau was eager to show residents that he is taking meaningful action in response to ongoing fill pile issues.
“This hopefully send a clear statement on accountability,” Tetreau said. “It will come with an implementation of whatever reforms we need to make to guarantee this never happens again.”
Tetreau said the town is in the process of evaluating and reforming several areas of policy that may have allowed for these issues. The Board of Selectmen approved an independent audit of DPW last week, and the town’s new employee hotline will be up and running within a few days.
Tetreau said the town has also been looking more broadly at its systematic procedures, such as how the Purchasing Department deals with RFPs and contracts.
“We’re learning from what took place with Julian and improving the process,” Tetreau said.