Kapoor Pushes First Selectman for Internal Budget Info, Files FOI

First Selectman Steve Vavrek calls Town Councilman Nick Kapoor's request partisan politics.

Town Councilman Nick Kapoor's request to see correspondence between First Selectman Steve Vavrek and town department heads over their budget requests sparked a heated exchange at Monday night's council meeting. Vavrek, who is a Republican, called it nothing more than partisan politics, because Kapoor also serves as Democratic Town Committee chairman, and flat out refused to release the information.

On Tuesday, Kapoor responded with a Freedom of Information request for the first selectman's letter to department heads asking them for specific information with their budget requests.

"I would request any and all information relating to Department Heads communication with you regarding the aforementioned items," Kapoor wrote in the FOI letter. "I would also request a copy of an email you sent to all Town Department Heads dated January 7, 2013 entitled 'Town Council Budget Mtgs.'"

When he asked Vavrek for the information at Monday night's council meeting, Vavrek replied that in the past 10 years, the first selectman never shared his letter to department heads with a Town Council member.

"Are you trying to do my job?" Vavrek asked. "I think this is politically based and I won't stand for it. End of discussion."

Vavrek then pointed out that Kapoor also serves as DTC chairman. Kapoor maintains he is only requesting the information in his role as a Town Council member to assist him in reviewing the 2013-14 budget request.

"Is this not public information?" Kapoor asked.

"You are micro-managing my position," Vavrek said.

Town Council Chairwoman Enid Lipeles and Town Councilman Tony Unger tried to restore order during the meeting.

Kapoor said he may have to file an FOI request and Lipeles said he would not get the information otherwise, because Vavrek had made it clear he would not share it. "That's how he feels," she said.

"That's how every first selectman feels," Vavrek added.

The first selectman then asked Dee Dee Martin, who is a Democrat, why she had not asked for the information in her 26 years on the Town Council.

"Why are you asking me?" Martin replied.

Martin actually served on the Town Council for 18 years.

The FOI Request

The letter Kapoor is asking for was one sent by Vavrek to town department heads in November, regarding their budget requests and asking them for:

A brief narrative of the department's functions, current staffing levels and a department organization chart, the department mission statement, the department’s goals for 2013/2014, a base budget with existing staff and services, a base budget plus any cost adjustments, requests for new staff and/or service — including the detailed explanation and cost breakdown, detailed requests for capital and/or operation items, detailed list of cost savings enacted in the last budget year and a detailed five-year cost and staffing projection for the department.

"It's a shame that, since the first selectman won't share the information voluntarily, he is forcing me to FOI public documents," " Kapoor said.

Steve Kirsch February 14, 2013 at 09:18 AM
Vera, it sounds like you were not at the meeting. Mr. Kapoor waited until it was the correct time to ask the First Selectman a question, he had the floor, and he asked his question in a very appropriate manner. It was the First Selectman who responded with an attitude and brought up partisanship. I find it interesting that many people are attacking the First Selectman's budget, while others are attacking a council member that is trying to get more information for himself, the other council members, and the public.
Steve Kirsch February 14, 2013 at 09:23 AM
M, this information is not, by law, private internal correspondence. Furthermore, as I noted in an earlier post, I was present at a meeting where it was agreed that the council would have access to this material. Some of the department heads were actually surprised to learn that the council did not already have access to this material. They were all happy to provide it to the council.
Laura February 14, 2013 at 02:10 PM
Rt25 February 15, 2013 at 01:59 PM
Mr. Kapoor is within his right to ask for this information. And, the FS should comply without it being made into such a tirade. The FS would have been wise to include it with his package to the council reps. When you are proposing a 5.5% increase to the budget, you should be willing to justify it with every stitch of paperwork possible.
dee dee martin February 23, 2013 at 07:17 PM
Would you not agree Vera, a good place to start for the "common good" is for those making budget decisions to have as much information as possible?


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