By MIKE CHAIKEN
Letters to the editor submitted to the Bristol Press and Bristol Observer critical of Councilor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu have resulted in the Democratic mayoral candidate firing back with personal emails to the authors as well as letters from her attorneys threatening legal action.
On Friday, Zoppo-Sassu sent an email to Republican councilor Eric Carlson—who is running for reelection in the first district—accusing the councilor’s letter in the Bristol Press as a “bold-faced lie” his assertion that “clandestine meetings”
In the letter published last week, Carlson wrote: “Councilwoman Zoppo-Sassu’s unwillingness to allow people to check up on progress of important matters is frightening. The overall cost estimates for the Boulevard project were known long ago. The architecture and engineering firm came up with an estimate of around $20 million to restore the building and bring it up to code. The number was not politically palatable, so she chose to have clandestine meetings in Rocky Hill. Open government be damned! She was able to use these ‘meetings’ to trim cost estimates. Leaving expenses off of the cost analysis does not make them go away. It will however lead to an emergency in the future, and an additional taxpayer.”
In her email to Carlson—which was cc’d to the Observer as well members of the Memorial Boulevard School Task Force—“I was interested to read (sic) your letter to the editor yesterday in which you stated I had held clandestine meetings about the Memorial Boulevard project in Rocky Hill. I am not sure what caused you to make that statement, but I have cc’ed all members of the Task Force, staff and Anwar Hossain (architect) who were in any way connected to the project, as well as key volunteers, so you will have all the names in one place.
Zoppo-Sassu also asked task force members to hit “reply all” when emailing their response to Carlson’s accusations.
As of Monday, however, none of those task force replies had been received by the Observer.
Zoppo-Sassu wrote to Carlson, “what you stated in your letter was a bold-faced lie. I will look forward to a public apology of your error at your earliest convenience. I wish you and your Republican colleagues showed as much interest in the entire MBS process during the 15 months we were at work as you are showing now.”
An email was sent to Carlson by the Observer requesting a retort to Zoppo-Sassu’s email, but as of Monday there had been no reply.
In her email to the Republican councilor, Zoppo-Sassu also wrote: “I also find it interesting that the BDDC (Bristol Downtown Development Corp.) has been holding the same type of technical work meetings over the last year – some in the mayor’s office and some off-site without the benefit of postings – and yet, the double standard that seems to be in place is that no one is commenting on that. In fact, at the last BDDC meeting on Sept. 14, they discussed a new sub-committee and the question was asked as to whether those meetings needed to be posted. Attorney (David) DeBassio apparently had the same interpretation of Freedom of Information that I did, because he responded that they did not, as it would not be a quorum. This was then discussed and it was made clear that they did in fact have to be posted meetings.
“After the last couple of weeks I have spent immersed in FOI law, it appears that the FOI law has been interpreted more narrowly in other cases than we do in Bristol; to encompass any meetings in which business of the agency is transacted, with any members of the agency present. If the standard is going to be enforced for the MBS meetings, then be very clear that they should also be enforced for other city meetings as well.”
In addition to Carlson’s letter to the editor, Zoppo-Sassu and her attorney Wyland Dale Clift have targeted a letter to the editor by Ronald Giddix that was submitted to both the Observer and Press. The mayoral candidate’s attorney demanded a retraction for some of the allegations included in the letter.
In an email to Clift, provided by the attorney, Giddix said he would not submit a full retraction. Giddix, in his letter to Clift, wrote: “The entire letter will not be retracted, but rather clarified and/or amended, listing the resources from which I gather the information in my letter to the editor dated Sept. 1, 2015.”
The letter of retraction from Giddix is published in this week’s Observer on page 8.
In a letter from Clift to Giddix— as well as the publisher of the Bristol Press, Michael Schoeder (the email was provided to the Observer by Giddix)— Zoppo-Sassu’s attorney wrote that Giddix made several libelous, untrue charges and did so with malice.
These charges Giddix made in his letter include that Zoppo-Sassu was asked to leave her job at the New Britain Chamber of Commerce due to a conflict of interest; that she been charged by the Freedom of Information commission with violation of FOI laws. Clift wrote that these and other charges were untrue.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN