15 Sep 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by annmaries_hair_on_madison
Patch Instagram photo by annmaries_hair_on_madison

Judge: Stratford Illegally Hired EMS Director

The town charter was violated when Philip Onofrio was hired, a judge ruled last week.

Judge: Stratford Illegally Hired EMS Director Judge: Stratford Illegally Hired EMS Director

Stratford's director of emergency medical services could be stripped of his post after a judge last week ruled that the town's hiring violated the town charter and thus was illegal.

Philip Onofrio's appointment as the new director in March 2011 was made at a time when there was already an EMS director -- which violated a town law limiting the position to one individual, Judge Howard Owens ruled in his 10-page decision.

"The charter defines the position a singularity," Owens wrote. "It does not allow for a second director to be created."

"We respectfully disagree with the court's ruling," said Mayor John A. Harkins, adding that the town plans to appeal.

Donna Best, who was EMS head for 11 years before Onofrio, brought the lawsuit against the town. In her testimony, she said that only after Onofrio took her job was she demoted to a lesser role.

And the testimony of the town's human resources director, Ronald Ing, backed that claim.

"Ronald Ing testified without contradiction that as soon as Onofrio assumed the office of director, Onofrio took complete operational control of the organization and reduced Best to a subordinate role," Owens wrote in his memorandum.

"Ing also testified that Onofrio took over position as director in March 2011 without any authorization from the Town Council to pay for his salary."

According to a report in the Connecticut Post, Onofrio was hired at about $100,000 a year, whereas Best was paid $82,000 annually.

"This was all about money and the mayor trying to spend taxpayers' money on behalf of some folks he wanted to help," Leon Rosenblatt, the lawyer for Best, told the newspaper.

Furthermore, Owens ruled that Onofrio and the town of Stratford failed to show Onofrio's "complete legal title to the position." In fact, he decreed that Best presented "a solid foundation of evidence showing that she is the director."

And as for Onofrio's future: "Once a court ascertains that the person is not the de jure office holder he must be removed," Owens ruled.

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