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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.

jim laguardia February 12, 2013 at 09:12 PM
what is to be gained by reading these emails?? then again what is to hide?? seems like both sides are kind of acting like these are notes being passed in the 6th grade...
Peter Woods February 12, 2013 at 09:35 PM
Kapoor's request seems reasonable. On looking at the list of items he is asking for, they seem like they would help him better understand a Department Head's request for his/her budget. Why is the Selectman making such a big deal out of it?
Monroe Mom February 12, 2013 at 09:49 PM
As I recall, Mr. Kapoor ran for Town Council but was not elected. He was only appointed to the position when someone else stepped down. While I understand the need to appoint a non-elected member when someone steps down, I don't understand why that non-elected person becomes the DTC Chairperson. Mr. Kapoor seems to put a lot of time and energy into negativity and not moving Monroe forward. Maybe it would be beneficial to have someone with a little more experience as a town council chairperson or perhaps someone that was elected by the town people to represent them.
Donna Gail February 12, 2013 at 09:52 PM
I thought a few of the Republican council members had ask for similar information many months ago. Or maybe even as far back as last year's budget cycle. The council members want to know what the department heads actually requested in their budgets, rather than only knowing what Mr. Vavrek was putting forward. They wanted to know what the dept. heads really felt they needed. I wonder why Vavrek can't supply the information in the interest of good communication. He always brags about his many facebook pages and town newsletter.
Cara J. Kramer February 12, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Many of the people on boards & commissions first start that way - by being appointed to the position. I remember Mr. Kapoor came very close to being elected - I believe by only a few votes. It's easy for the "other side" to claim politics, but whenever I hear of Kapoor requesting information, it's info that I as a taxpayer would also like to know, such as about the staggering legal fees the Town paid last fiscal year. Kapoor obviously does his homework and takes the Council position very seriously. He is at a disadvantage with his age in that some people give him less respect than they should. But it always seems to me that he is looking out for the taxpayers. And I don't really see how whether or not he is a DTC chairperson relates to his position on the Council.
jim laguardia February 12, 2013 at 10:16 PM
dont forget linkedin
Non-Fiction February 12, 2013 at 10:26 PM
@Monroe Mom - What is the point of your statement except to put someone down? Your logic seems to be that if you can't win the argument then attack the person making the argument.
Rick Strong February 12, 2013 at 10:27 PM
YEE HA, Thank you Mama! As a church mouse hiding in the walls at some of those DTC meetings, that is exactly what happened. Their plan was to have someone step down if he didn't garner enough votes. Purely political and the reason I try and distance myself from some of those running that D town committee.
Schap February 12, 2013 at 10:33 PM
As a citizen that attended a lot of the TC & BOF workshops, I found it interesting that some department heads that were in front of the council verbalized that they were told to present a zero increase in their department as opposed to what they needed to continue in an efficient manner. One item was the money given to the assessor that said she would be able to return the perscribed dollars plus additional collection by using a service to audit different commercial tax payers. At a tc meeting she advised that the program was successful and was commented. These are the type of items that the dept heads want, but they could have been eliminated by the F/S to keep the dept. at zero increase. If tools are needed to be more efficient and decrease expenses in the future the TC should be exposed to them.
New Kid in Town February 12, 2013 at 10:47 PM
I didn't vote in Mr Vavrek, simply because I was not in town at that time. Nothing is to be gained by asking such micro managing questions. It will further divide amongst party lines. What also needs to be remembered is that Mr Kapoor is really speaking for himself at this point. if he is that curious, then let him do an FOI. Seems much ado about nothing! That energy should be focused on my constructive tasks!
New Kid in Town February 12, 2013 at 10:48 PM
*More constructive tasks!
Carl Kolchak February 13, 2013 at 12:45 AM
Asking for public documents? The unmitigated gall. How dare he question the Mighty Oz.
Alex February 13, 2013 at 03:05 AM
As a tax payer of this town, I would like to know what Mr. Kapoor is asking for. I don't think its unreasonable to ask for the budgets each dept head requested.
Steve Kirsch February 13, 2013 at 08:00 AM
Monroe Mom, A position on the Council and being the Chair of either party are two separate items and are not related to each other. There is an established process for filling a vacancy on the Council (as on all Board & Commissions). Because the opening on the Council was for a Democrat, Mr. Kapoor was selected by his party to fill the open seat. Mr. Kapoor also decided to step up and asked to lead the Monroe Democratic Town Committee (MDTC) when the chair of that body had an opening. Again, he was voted in by the members of the MDTC. Lastly, this is not the first time that the Chair of one of the parties has also served on an elected body, so it is no big deal.
Steve Kirsch February 13, 2013 at 08:19 AM
I think that the public needs to understand that what Mr. Kapoor is asking for includes some information that has been available in the past. Furthermore, it is information that Council members of both parties have asked for in the past. The real question is why they did not support Mr. Kapoor with the exception of the item on department organization charts. Even more interesting is that last year Mr. Vavrek hosted a meeting with members of the Council, all town department heads, and members of various board and commissions. I attended that meeting. The meeting was amazing to me in that everyone agreed that the Council members would benefit by having more information and I left there with the understanding that the material would be made available to the Council members. In fact the department heads all indicated that they would be pleased to provide additional information to the Council members. It was also decided that various Council members would meet with various departments before the formal budget workshops. Those meetings did take place, but at some point the idea of giving the Council members the additional material was apparently changed by the First Selectman.
Steve Kirsch February 13, 2013 at 08:33 AM
As some people know, I attend many Town Council meetings as well as the annual budget workshops held by the Council and the Board of Finance. Last year I was surprised by the number of times that department heads or commission chairs appeared before the Council members in their workshops, and, when questioned about their specific budgets, responded that there was more information available to explain their requests. While members of both parties asked the First Selectman for additional details (and were clearly frustrated when the material was not provided promptly) some of the harshest exchanges were between the First Selectman and members of his own party. While some people may want to turn Mr. Kapoor’s request into a political party issue, people should understand that the Republicans also have had these same requests.
Vera School February 13, 2013 at 04:13 PM
As a citizen I do not appreciate Nick Kapoor's virulent partisanship. I'm the type who thinks that everyone should work together for a common good
James Wadsworth February 13, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Why is it partisan if the Republican's asked for the same information?
Geezer February 13, 2013 at 05:53 PM
Seems to me that if the requested information should be available under FOI, the motivation for the request should not be an issue. Nor should it be used as a reason not to comply. I believe a lot of good people gave and continue to give up their lives so that the rest of us can enjoy freedoms like this.
Laura February 13, 2013 at 07:04 PM
GO NICK!!! I want to know! And Vera - were you there??? Your comment is just so wrong!!!
Cara J. Kramer February 13, 2013 at 11:30 PM
Vera, you should really encourage the first selectman to work for a common good. He is not providing the information that was requested of him a long time ago, and then he cries "partisan politics!" when Mr. Kapoor continues to request it on behalf of himself, the rest of the council members, and the public. You should attend some Council meetings.
m February 14, 2013 at 12:18 AM
Internal correspondence between the first selectman and his staff ought to stay private, however, the first selectman's report out to the town council should have been in enough detail to satisfy the constituency. Meaning what were some of the tough calls and trade offs that he has had to make to keep costs under control. The notion of this being partisan seems like BS.
Steve Kirsch February 14, 2013 at 09:13 AM
It should be noted that as a result of Nick's request each of the department heads brought with them additional information that explained their needs and requests in more detail and it was clear to me that ALL council members were gald to have the additional information. I can also say that if the citizens of Monroe could read this material and hear the "presentations" and the Q&A's, that we would all have a much better understanding of what is in the budget and why it is important.
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
HERE HERE!!!
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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