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Chief Financial Officer's Position and Contract Discussed at Two Meetings

The Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen met on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

 

The Middlebury Board of Finance met at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, and supported a $40,000 reduction in the town Finance Department's salary account and the transfer of those funds into the contingency account.

The recommendation must now go before the Board of Selectmen.

The finance board originally voted on the above reduction at a 7:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 14, meeting, but opted to make the motion again at the November 16 meeting.

That decision was made after First Selectman against the Board of Finance, stating they had not given the required advance notice of the November 14 meeting.

If the November 14 meeting were deemed illegal, any action taken at said meeting would be null and void.

Board of Finance Chairman Michael McCormack told Patch the intention of the reduction was to avoid awarding Chief Financial Officer Larry Hutvagner a contract as it is presently written.

McCormack told Patch the finance board's goal is to reduce the cost of town government. The finance board members object to Hutvagner's contract because they prefer the chief financial officer to be part time instead of full time, he said.

"Most of the towns our size that don't do the accounting for a school district have a part-time chief financial officer," said McCormack. "We wanted this option to be available."

He said switching the position from full to part time will equate to a $75,000 to $80,000 reduction due to the savings from salary and fringe benefits, as part-time employees do not get fringe benefits.

The approval of Hutvagner's contract took place the same day as the finance board meeting, at a 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, Board of Selectmen meeting.

Hutvagner's contract is for one year, Gormley said.

The meeting, while not long, served as a forum for residents and selectmen to air matters of importance.

Prior to the meeting, resident Heidi Shea asked if there would be public comment and whether the agenda could be changed to allow it.

Gormley said no. Per Section 1-255 of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act, no other business can be conducted at a special meeting, beyond what is on the agenda.

Strobel asked Gormley to recuse himself from the vote on Hutvagner's contract. She cited Gormley's friendship with Hutvagner. Gormley did not recuse himself.

Strobel said she felt the contract was not legal under the town's pension plan.

The contract reads that the town agrees to employ Hutvagner from November 16 of this year to November 15, 2012, for an annual salary of $88,597.

The paragraph of the contract detailing pension benefits was altered after Selectman Bob Desmarais asked for a change in the language. He noted that he asked the CFO's term be shortened and that request was made in the contract.

Regarding the language change, Desmarais asked the word "vested" be eliminated from the contract.

The original language states that: "With the execution of this contract, Lawrence S. Hutvagner will be entitled to all the pension benefits of a vested employee as outlined in the town of Middlebury Retirement Plan Document."

The new language, as approved by the Board of Selectmen, is identical to the above paragraph but does not contain the word "vested."

Town Counsel Stephen Savarese said the contract was modeled after the last CFO contract for the town.

Hutvagner explained that an employee must work for the town for a minimum of 10 years in order to get vested, meaning the town has an obligation to provide a pension to said employee.

Savarese told Patch it was never anyone's intention to skip Hutvagner ahead by 10 years.

The contract was modeled from a prior CFO's contract and the "vested" language of the contract was left in accidentally, he said.

Going forward, Hutvagner said he is happy about the outcome and feels the signing of his contract will give the town stability.

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