On the trail of the missing fire station flat screens

On the trail of the missing fire station flat screens


To the editor:

To Richard Spirlet, chairman, Westport Board of Selectmen …

As you know, the Westport Taxpayers (WTA) sent a letter to you as chairman of the Board of Selectmen (BOS) dated October 3 (letter was printed in the October 11 edition of the Westport Shorelines under the title “Boat, big screens: Town needs answers.” According to Town Administrator John F. Healy’s October 12 “Special Report” memorandum to the BOS, he initiated an investigation into WTA’s claim that, as of October 1, 2012, there were only 11 out of the original 14 flat-screen TVs purchased with 20-year bond money to be found at the Hix Bridge Fire Station.  Mr. Healy’s “Memorandum” is full of inaccuracies.

Here are the facts:

On October 1, 2012, the WTA sent a deputation (three of its directors) to inspect the new Fire Station (otherwise known as the “Taj Majal”). The group arrived unannounced and uninvited. Chief Legendre did not “arrange a ‘tour’” as misstated in Mr. Healy’s memorandum.  In fact, the chief was not in the building when we arrived and we asked Deputy Chief Sam Manley if the three of us could tour the station. He walked us around from room to room, except for the chief’s office and the Emergency Management office which were both locked, and we were able to make careful observations about the building and its contents, including but not limited to the fact that we could visually account for only 11 of the original 14 flat-screen TVs that had been purchased for the Taj Majal with 20-year bond money.

Now it could be that three trained eyes were unable to see two flat-screens in the two locked rooms and missed one that was located elsewhere in a part of the building we were allowed to inspect (e.g., we neglected to look in the building’s broken elevator), but we remain reasonably certain that on October 1, 2012, there were fewer than 14 flat-screens on the premises. Eight days later, on October 9,  is another matter. Based on his memorandum and the photographic array taken that day, we must accept that Mr. Healy’s inspectors verified a count of 14 flat-screens on October 9.

Assuming this to be true, that the original 14 flat-screen TVs purchased with 20-year bond money were on the premises on October 9, there should have been an additional three flat-screen TVs on site that were purchased with grant money the Fire Department received under the Federal Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) and shipped to the station by Saber TV, 804 Pleasant Street Fall River, on or about August 8, 2012. Therefore, if the three of us from WTA were mistaken when we counted 11 flat-screen TVs on October 1, and there were in fact 14 found on October 9,  where were the additional three flat-screens purchased from the EMPG grant money and delivered to the station? On October 1 and on October 9, there should have been no fewer than 17 flat-screens on premises. What happened to the three orphans? Have they found a new home?

Given your status as chairman of the BOS, Westport’s police commissioner, and as a former New Bedford Police officer with years of experience, has the thought ever crossed your mind that someone in the Town’s Fire Department is attempting to “finagle the bagel”? And why have you not made any apparent effort to answer the many other questions that WTA posed in our October 3 letter to you that appeared in the paper on Oct. 11?  After all, the issue of the missing flat-screens is merely one example of Fire Department mismanagement, lack of accountability, and poor stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Gregory N. Jonsson

Director and corporate secretary to the board

Westport Taxpaers Association