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Town Attorney Recommends 'Ignoring' Stratford EMS Hiring Lawsuit Threat

A West Hartford labor attorney has accused Mayor Harkins with 'illegal' and 'reckless behavior' in an effort to 'supplant Donna Best as administrator of Stratford's EMS.' Meanwhile, the Town Attorney calls the charges 'factually and legally inaccurate.'

Click on the "View Full Size" PDF link to read West Hartford Attorney Leon M. Rosenblatt's letter threatening to sue the town of Stratford for Mayor John Harkins' recent hiring of a new director for Stratford's Emergency Medical Service (EMS), Philip Onofrio. The letter is addressed to Attorney Garrett Denniston and was copied to members of the Town Council and EMS administrator Donna Best.

In it, Att. Rosenblatt charges that "Mayor Harkins' pretending that Philip Onofrio, the new EMS director, is not supplanting Donna Best as administrator of Stratford's Emergency Medical Services, is ridiculous."

"Mr. Onofrio's recently published job description is virtually identical to Ms. Best's job description, and he has now taken over Ms. Best's office."

Att. Rosenblatt further states that "Mayor Harkins' conduct is illegal" in that "he bypassed the Town Council in hiring Mr. Onofrio, a violation of the Stratford Charter."

He added, "Mayor Harkins' decision to pay Mr. Onofrio a salary of $100,000 is an affront to Stratford's taxpayers and the Town Council. It is money thrown away because Mr. Onofrio's position is redundant."

However, Stratford Town Attorney Timothy A. Bishop responded this afternoon, "Generally speaking, the letter is factually and legally inaccurate. 

"So much so that I recommend the town simply ignore it. 

"I don’t know what Donna could ever sue for.  She has the same exact title, she has the same exact duties and she is making exactly the same money. 

"Nothing about her position has changed, other than that the Town has finally installed someone to oversee the functions of the EMS department as envisioned in the Charter. 

"If anything, she has additional support, so she should be able to perform her job even better than she did before," Attorney Bishop continued. "When it comes down to providing emergency services, I think Donna would agree that improving the level and quality of services should be of paramount importance."

Town officials also refuted Att. Rosenblatt's charge that the hiring amounted to "retribution" against Ms. Best due to the fact that her husband, Jonathan Best, unsuccessfully challenged Mayor Harkins in a Republican primary for mayor in 2009 as "unfounded."

See the attached letter for more details on the alleged political motives of the current administration in the EMS hiring.

Jim Miron April 05, 2011 at 11:55 AM
If the Town Attorney is right that Ms. Best has no legal ground to win a suit as "she has the same exact title, she has the same exact duties and she is making exactly the same money" one has to ask: Why do we need two such positions?

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