The February 26, 2015 issue of the Darien Times was interesting for what it contained and what was missing. What was missing was a report on an electronic poll on its website dealing with whether Darien should have its own paramedics. Initially, the no need to change anything option was way ahead of Darien needs paramedics. I surmise that this was the Posties getting together to cast their votes. Impressively, the Times had the technical means to prevent “click early and often.” At this writing, the Darien needs paramedics option is ahead by almost two to one. I still suspect that the Post fan club will stage a rally. An organization like Post should be able to win a vote like this because the other side is just individuals who are not organized. That is not what is happening. In many ways this should not be surprising. While I clearly have strong opinions on this issue, I think it has been broadly recognized in town that the current EMS system does not work. I have provided just too much data. Ironically, the Times may have been “hoisted by its own poll.” The Times may now be forced to cover the paramedic issue.
The issue contained an objective report of the Board of Selectmen meeting at which First Selectman Jayme Stevenson announced that an unnamed consultant from Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico would study Darien’s EMS system. The only thing transparent about this consulting project is its opaqueness.
The editorial praised First Selectman Stevenson for reaching out to Chairman Hagerty-Ross of the Board of Education with respect to 35 Leroy, Darien’s very own Area 51. The problem is that this comes two years late after God knows how much money has been spent. Frankly, this coming together was forced by disclosures by me and others regarding 35 Leroy. To me, this is like the blind leading the blinder but it would be nice if 35 Leroy has air conditioning when the new Superintendent arrives in July. The excellent interview with Dr. Brenner neglected to ask him if he was bringing long johns for next winter.
There was a letter from RTC member John Boulton praising Stevenson’s tight fiscal management. God knows what we should be spending that we won’t so Stevenson can look good. Boulton represents about one third of Stevenson’s support among senior Republicans and is under pressure himself from dissatisfied RTC members. Senior Republicans can’t stand Stevenson but don’t want a messy primary. They believe they can contain damage from Stevenson to the people of Darien and not the Republican Party because the Democrats will offer no competition.
Finally, there was an excellent piece about the non-audit review report which pointed out, among many other things, that the word audit was never used in the non-audit report. Coincidentally, the same point was made by a frequent letter writer in a letter to the editor.
The evening began with me looking at the Darien Times website and noticing a story about tonight’s BOS meeting. The story related to a vote that the BOS would take to transfer $27,000 for a consulting study of Darien’s EMS system, I.e. Post 53. I had planned to attend the BOS meeting.
At the end of the article, there was a poll about Darien’s EMS system. The first choice, the current EMS system needs no changes, was way out in front. I knew nothing of this poll. What I did know was that Posties would be able to stuff the electronic ballot box. Instead of the Darien Times actually covering the paramedic issue, the editor chose an unscientific and easily rigged on line poll to get the towns views on this life and death issue. I planned to attend the BOS meeting and then rush home to e-mail friends to vote. After attending the BOS meeting , I changed my mind. Let me explain.
I will summarize the results of the EMS portion of the BOS meeting. The board voted unanimously to transfer the $27,000 for a consulting firm to develop an EMS plan per state requirements. This matter must now go to the BOF. However, our First Selectman informed everyone that the town’s plan had actually been filed in January and the $27,000 was actually for a plan that would just amend the plan that had been filed in January. I wonder if the other board members knew that this report had been filed in January. The First Selectman, Jayme Stevenson, also stated that she thought that our current system was just great. Stevenson would not name the consulting firm. I asked if the public would have any input. She said no but I could submit questions to her. This study is a done deal.
I returned home and decided to forget about the Darien Times’ on line poll. It too was a done deal. I must say that the events of this evening left me astounded by the corruption in Darien. But the evening left me reinvigorated. I have always known I was right about paramedics in Darien but tonight was another vote of confidence. For Stevenson to go to these lengths to cover up Darien’s need for paramedics based in Darien reaffirmed everything I already knew. I will sleep well tonight. Walter Casey
Courtesy of the Darien Times, we now know that First Selectman Jayme Stevenson will Dance with the Stars at a benefit for a very worthy cause. Stevenson should do very well. She has had ample practice dancing with the issues, never staying very long at any one place on the political dance floor. She can fantasize about being swept away by her Fred Astaire to her Shangri-La, let’s say Rowayton. She can cast off the worries which she doesn’t spend much time worrying about anyway. These would include but not be limited to the igloo at 35 Leroy, paramedics and financial fraud in the school system. Stevenson can escape from the likes of a former fan who verbally abused her at the Sugarbowl. This person, one of the more erratic public figures in town, became outraged over an alleged unpaid bill from when their daughters were in high school. Where was the security detail? The memory of this bizarre incident might require a flamenco to recover from. While accustomed to waltzing around the real issues of Darien, a flamenco could indeed prove a challenge. Walter Casey
I just read the forensic audit, fraud audit, non-fraud audit, audit and now review report. Somewhere along the audit trail the audit got lost. I do not recall seeing the word audit in the now review report. In the process of getting lost on the audit trail, BOF Chairman Mao and member Jon Zagodzky made fools of themselves and discredited their entire board.
When one reads the now review report, one is expected to believe that out of the chaos that was the financial system used by the Darien schools miraculously popped one of the largest billings to the state for excess special education costs of any town in the state. A suspension of belief is required to believe that these large billings just happened to be generated by a chaotic financial system year after year. Finally, we are expected to believe that the regular audit firm did not just happen to notice that the accounting was out of control. By the way, if things were that bad, they could not have been confined to just special education. There is no audit sample size small enough that would have missed the chaos described in this report.
I have three recommendations. The first is to fire Mao and Zagrodzky and bring in someone to chair the BOF to attempt to restore credibility to this important board. The second is to fire the current outside auditor and get a good one. The third is to have someone from the audit firm that performed this review and station that person in the Darien school system to perform an ongoing internal audit of all financial functions, not just special education. This internal auditor should report to the BOF. Utilizing this firm will save money for training. Darien has a new Superintendent coming on board and he will have enough to do without having to worry about financial fraud. This internal auditor should be a condition of the BOF approving the BOE’s budget. The RTM should also make its approval of the education budget conditional on this internal audit arrangement.
I recently read the Post 53 website. I noted that Dr. Turnbull was quoted. She was described as a member of Post’s Board of Directors and an emergency room physician at Stamford Hospital. She was not described as Post’s medical director. Does this mean that Post 53 does not have a medical director? I seem to recall that a Dr. Jason Fishel was introduced as Post’s medical director at a Darien BOS meeting on 6/3/13. This was the meeting at which Dr. Fishel and other Stamford Hospital physicians downplayed the importance of paramedic response time. I wrote to the CEO of Stamford Hospital and suggested he might want to review the DVD of that meeting. Oh well, another Post 53 mystery. You readers might want to reread my recent comment “Follow the Money.” It outlines how lucrative the current Darien EMS system is to everyone except the patient. Walter Casey
I looked at the Post 53 website and response times have not been updated since September 2014. Why? What could possibly be the reason for the delay? Walter Casey
Through the state FOI law, I gained access to the paramedic responses to Darien for June 2014. Post 53 responded without paramedics 63% of the time and paramedics followed Post to the scene 37% of the time. When Post responded alone, the patient was taken to Stamford hospital 56% of the time. Norwalk Hospital received the patient 18% of the time and there was no transport to the hospital 26% of the time. Norwalk paramedics only responded twice with the two cases being split one each between Stamford and Norwalk hospitals. The remaing 47 cases involved Stamford EMS (SEMS) responding to Darien. When SEMS responded, the patient was taken to Stamford Hospital 78% of the time and only 18% to Norwak hospital. SEMS did not transport a patient to a hospital only 4% of the time. SEMS paramedics responding to Darien is a gold mine for Stamford hospital. There is a huge jump from 56% to 78% in transports to Stamford hospital when SEMS responds. SEMS only transports to Norwalk hospital 18% of the time. Stamford hospital wins the game of acquiring patients when SEMS responds to Darien. I remember when doctors spoke before the BOS about how wonderful Post 53 was and how it was unnecessary to station paramedics in Darien because responSe time really isn’t that important. This comes when SEMS targets an 8 minute response time within Stamford. Could the explanation for these doctors’ preposterous testimony be the money from beating Norwalk to Darien patients? SEMS, a separate entity from Stamford hospital, also benefits. If a Darien patient does not pay SEMS, Darien pays SEMS. Of course, Darien doesn’t have to pay for paramedics based in Darien. Everyone wins except for Darien patients who have to wait for paramedics. Money talks and everyone walks except the patients who have to wait. Walter Casey
Apparently, Darien Democrats submitted a name to replace a Democrat who was leaving the BOF. The candidate was summarily rejected, get this, for having a conflict of interest. It seems she has been an advocate for special education children in Darien. I seem to remember Republican Chairman Mao introducing a new Republican BOF member by saying that he had a special ed child and would bring a needed perspective to the BOF given the special ed scandal. Then we have the questions of conflict of interest swirling around Jon Zagrodzky. Zagrodzky is the BOF member who was in charge of the excess cost audit of special ed. He refuses to respond to questions about any conflicts of interest which has further eroded the credibility of the audit. The BOF is corrupt. If this story is not investigated by the Darien Times, then the paper should close. Walter Casey
I learned of last night’s BOF meeting while perusing the town website yesterday afternoon. Unable to attend in person, I watched the meeting on CH 79. Jon Zagrodzky “presented” the final audit report. Gone were the helpful statements from his November presentation such as I will spend whatever time it takes to explain and answer questions. Last night was No Mas. JZ wanted to get as far away from this report as possible. He told readers to ask the auditors any questions they may have and turned the future of any recommendations over to the BOE. Zagrodzky didn’t provide any answers to the questions of conflict of interest surrounding him. This audit was a chance to answer people’s questions, it failed. In fact, it raised even more questions and raised as many questions about the integrity of the BOF as have been raised about the integrity of the BOE and the school administration. No Mas, No Way. Walter Casey
Notice that I exclaimed after having questioned. I am amazed that no criminal charges were filed in the special education scandal. I am not an attorney but I would think that altering an IEP would be a criminal act. The alteration defrauds the child of legally mandated services, defrauds Darien taxpayers because their tax dollars are being illegally spent, defrauds the state because the state’s payments to Darien were misappropriated and defrauds the Federal Government because the direct or indirect aid from the Federal Government is being misspent. Of course, Shipman and Goodwin must have ruled that there were no criminal activities. But, wasn’t Shipman and Goodwin the attorney when the possible illegalities occurred? Oh, what a tangled web has been woven. Walter Casey