Is Kevin Lynch’s ‘Retirement’ the Way Things are Done in Litchfield?

July 13, 2018

 

by Len Lathrop

When the dust finally settles to the ground, the question of being legal and being right will sit on many window sills in at least a couple of town buildings. Kevin Lynch, a fixture in the town offices, whether building inspections, zoning rules, health codes, or electrical approvals and, for the past nine to 12 months, even fire inspections, Lynch was the go-to guy.

Officially, Lynch turned his letter of resignation in last week to Fire Chief Frank Fraitzl, who had become Lynch’s direct supervisor when building inspections became part of the fire department.

During Monday night’s board of selectmen meeting, several community members spoke about the situation during the public input section.

They were upset by the “retirement” of Lynch and even more so when the selectmen advised they could not talk about it, as it was a personnel matter.

Selectman Chairman Brent Lemire answered questions and provided explanation that did not refer directly to Lynch’s employment and retirement. He explained that combining the building and other inspection services with fire inspections started in 2013 during the budget process to better serve the residents of Litchfield and to be cost effective. He continued to mention that in the long-term goals this inspection person would also be a firefighter/EMT and could back up the two current firefighters in an emergency situation.

Kevin Lynch spoke with the HLN Tuesday afternoon and was a true professional about the situation, with the conversation highlighting two different areas: one, his concern with the actions of the fire chief wasn’t about the work itself or any complaints from Litchfield residents and business owners, but about town employee policies, which he felt were being selectively enforced. Second, continuing to talk about the change in inspection services, he is not in favor of the plan to combine services, believing it is not in the nature of the town of Litchfield and how this previous approach has been effective over the years with folks in town.

During the public input session, Joe Cabral was the first of the 13 people in the selectmen’s room to speak. He had questions listed on a tablet that he read including “who do you work for and who pays the salary” to “how many times was Kevin written up?” While Chairman Lemire tried to explain that public input is not a deposition, and the format is for statements, not questions, while he continued to state that personnel issues could not be talked about. Litchfield Town Administrator Troy Brown supported Lemire’s comments about it being a personnel matter that they could not by law speak about.

This went on for a few minutes as other citizens came to the microphone to help Cabral and support Lynch. First was Ray Peeples, who labeled himself as being known as a troublemaker and rebel rouser and he doesn’t expect you “guys” (selectmen) to say one word – “You guys are wrong and Brent (Lemire) I hold you responsible as you knew the history between Fraitzl and Lynch in Milford. This is uncharitable and not the way we do things in Litchfield.”

Brown reinforced that these changes in structure make sense to have code enforcement together for the citizens of the town. People commenting at the meeting replied “one person with total power” and “we pay you salaries and can vote you out.” Other comments were “concerned taxpayers in the town of Litchfield want answers.” Several other citizens spoke against Lynch’s “retirement.”

Lynch was asked over the phone if he knew of the plans for the change that during Monday’s meeting selectmen and staff said had been presented in 2013. Lynch statement was there was no transparency and he was not part of any changes, during the meeting it was presented that the Litchfield plan was designed after consultation with Hudson and Bedford who both have combined inspection services. The audience spoke out that both towns were a lot different than Litchfield with a lot more growth and businesses with both towns being much larger.

John Bryant was the last to go to the mic. “Have we made a mistake that will cost the town taxpayers many dollars?” I am “disappointed in this town, we treat each other better.”

Public input closed at 7:10, almost an hour after it had started.

Kevin Lynch closed the HLN phone conversation with the comment that he will look for some part-time work for other towns. Supporters gathered outside the building Monday night were talking about a citizen petition to return the fire chief position to be an elected one and not a town employee position, which changed several years ago.