STAMFORD —The Glenbrook Fire Department will hold its Christmas tree lighting at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hope Street Park. The Glenbrook Community Center’s Activities for Kids chorus will sing carols. Free hot chocolate will be served. For more information, visit www.glenbrookassn.com.
A civil trial seeking millions in damages for police brutality after a Norwalk woman was punched in the face by a Stamford policeman during a parking dispute before an Alive @ 5 concert in 2009 began at the Stamford courthouse Wednesday.
The woman, Brenda Mazariegos, 44, and friends Sandra and Nelson Solis are suing Zach and the city of Stamford for a number of civil offenses including negligence, recklessness, assault, battery, false arrest and infliction of emotional distress.
The incident occurred on June 25, 2009, when Mazariegos and Sandra Solis were trying park in the Palms nightclub parking lot at lower Summer Street at about 3:55 p.m. Zach, who was working an extra duty job before the concert, refused to let them park.
He eventually let them through. Husbands Nelson Solis and Feliciano Mazariegos owned the Palms nightclub and Brenda and Sandra worked there.
As they tried to park, Zach demanded to see Mazariegos’ driver’s license, which she didn’t have. He ordered her from the car, grabbed her arms and pushed her into the car and told her she was under arrest.
According to Mazariegos’ lawsuit, Zach pushed Nelson onto the cement in front of a passing truck, which stopped before hitting him. The officer then pushed Sandra onto the cement before punching Mazariegos. The lawsuit alleges Zach “pummeled” Mazariegos after she fell onto the ground.
Zach handcuffed Mazariegos and left her in the back of a police cruiser. Her lawsuit alleges Mazariegos was bleeding from her nose and mouth and “had a hematoma on her forehead the size of an orange.”
During testimony Wednesday, a man who was driving a pickup truck about 20 feet away from where Zach and Mazariegos were arguing said he saw Zach hit Mazariegos four or five times in the face.
Under questioning by Mazariegos attorney Antonio Ponvert, Lt. Nick Montagnese testified that he heard Zach call for help over the radio and as he was running to the scene he saw both Zach’s and Mazariegos’ hands flailing about.
He said that he then saw Zach use his right fist to punch Mazariegos in the head once and saw her drop. Montagnese said he could not tell exactly what was happening before he saw the punch thrown. Presenting a huge photograph of Mazariegos showing a huge lump on her forehead, Ponvert asked Montagnese if that is what Mazariegos looked like after the assault and Montagnese said yes, it did.
When Ponvert asked Montagnese if the six-foot Zach punching the five-foot Mazariegos could be a potential lethal use of force, Zach’s attorney Elliot Spector objected, saying that the question called for speculation.
Montagnese said he only saw Zach push Sandra and Nelson Solis backward following the punch, not before. It appeared to him as though Zach was clearing his zone of arrest after the Sandra and Nelson Solis came rapidly came up behind Zach.
Montagnese said Zach complained to him that Mazariegos clawed his face and arm. During cross examination Spector showed pictures of Zach’s cut lip and scratched left forearm and asked if that is what Zach looked like after the incident. Montagnese said the picture was an accurate portrayal.
Zach is scheduled to take the stand Thursday morning and testimony in the case may end as early as Friday after Mazariegos takes the stand to tell her own story.
Prosecutors ended up dropping all charges against Mazariegos that included a felony charge of assaulting a police officer. Zach was placed on administrative leave a month after the allegations of police brutality surfaced.
Zach was eventually suspended without pay for about two months and was required to meet certain provisions –that included attending anger management classes- before returning to his job as patrol officer.
After the federal government levied a $165,000 fine against Port Chester-based Concavage Marine Contractors last week for a crane collapse in Stamford last May, state police have now pressed criminal charges against the owner and crane operator.
Company owner Nicholas Concavage, 55, of 95 Hillside Road, Rye, New York, was charged with two misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and a single charge of operating an unregistered crane.
Crane operator Richard Dufresne, 45, of 109 Mennella Road, Poughquag, New York, was charged with a single count of reckless endangerment and operating a crane without a license.
The two were released after signing written promises to appear at court on January 4, 2014.
A message left with Concavage seeking comment was not immediately returned.
According to the arrest affidavits, Dufresne was operating a crane for Concavage at Southfield Avenue’s Avalon Bay Marina on May 22, 2013 pulling out storm damaged pilings when the crane flipped over. After glancing off a sail boat, the 80-foot crane boom landed on a 47-foot power boat, which barely kept the crane itself from toppling into the water at the marina. No one was hurt in the accident.
After the crane was righted later that day, a state crane inspector had a look at the crane and determined that it lacked a number of safety devices.
According to the affidavit, the crane had no boom hoist limiting device, no boom stops that could keep the crane from flipping over backwards, no flotation list and trim device, no load chart, no clearly marked boom hoist cable, no inspection documentation and no four year flotation device inspection.
State crane inspector Elliot Henowitz reported to the state police officer investigating the incident that if any of the required devices were not in proper working order operation of the crane should have been taken out of service immediately, the affidavit said. The investigators also discovered that the crane was not registered to be operated in Connecticut.
When trooper Michael Marino, who investigated the collapse, met with Concavage a day after the incident, Concavage admitted that he removed the crane’s boom stops four months earlier because they were bent.
Concavage said he was trying to repair the stops and knew it was a serious issue. After reflecting on the problem, Concavage said he should have left the boom stops in place, the affidavit said.
When the trooper checked into Dufresne’s background, he could not a crane license in the 20-year employee’s name either in Connecticut or New York state.
Dufresne said to Marino that he knew the boom stops had been removed and were in need of repair, the affidavit said. He said he was aware Concavage was trying to get them fixed and that operating without boom stops was a serious issue.
Dufresne told Marino he thought the collapse occurred because the barge the crane was sitting on was overloaded with wooden pilings.
About three weeks later on Wednesday June 12, state police got a tip that Concavage was working in the marina again pulling pilings.
When Marino went over he saw Dufresne operating a different crane that turned out not to be registered in the state either.
When that crane was checked out, it was determined it too did not have a readable load chart, no clearly marked boom hoist cable and no inspection documentation. Henowitz told Marino that operating the cranes without a load chart “would be like driving a car blindfolded,” the affidavit said.
When Marino called to find out what was going on, Concavage told him, “you got me.”
Dufresne told Marino that he was told by Concavage to pull the pilings and finish the job at Avalon Bay. He said that they had been working in the marina since Monday.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Concavage $165,200 for “willful and serious workplace safety violations,” related to the missing safety devices on the toppled crane.
STAMFORD — The Stamford High School Band will hold a Christmas tree and wreath sale now through Dec. 23 in the rear lot of the school on Hillandale Avenue. Balsam and fraser firs from three to 15 feet in height will be available starting at $25, along with 20-inch decorated wreaths and door swags. Hours are Monday through Friday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.Tree sales will benefit the band program. For more information, call 203-977-4223.
THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED, see below
STAMFORD — Mayor David Martin said this week that he will not continue the longstanding tradition of meeting privately with the Board of Representatives’ eight-member leadership each month.
The controversial practice was the subject of several Freedom of Information Act complaints lodged by Board of Finance member Sal Gabriele and former Board of Finance Chairman Joseph Tarzia in recent years. The state Freedom of Information Commission has so far dismissed all of the complaints, which commissioners ruled were not filed properly.
The Commission dismissed Gabriele’s 2011 complaint, finding he filed it one day past the deadline for lodging grievances. Tarzia’s 2012 complaint was tossed for similar reasons in August (you can read the commission’s final decision here).
UPDATE: Tarzia and his attorney, Joe Sargent, are appealing the FOI Commission’s ruling in Superior Court. The case is scheduled for a pretrial conference in early January.
Tarzia and other critics of the private leadership meetings contend the gatherings improperly excluded the public from discussions on city business, such as board appointments and the fire services’ reorganization. Skigen and other members of the board’s leadership, however, maintain the meetings were not substantive in nature.
City Rep. Harry Day, R-13, called Tarzia’s FOI complaint a “ludicrous and time-consuming claim” and said he thinks the leadership meetings were misunderstood. He defended the gatherings in an email:
“The meetings are not secret–everyone knows we have them just before Steering on the second Monday of the month–and they are not illegal, because the only thing we discuss is setting the agenda for the month–a permitted activity under FOIA as it is currently interpreted.
“Reference to discussion of the reorganization of the city’s fire services would have related, for example, to whether or when that item would be ripe for public hearing (discussed many times, because it never made it to a public hearing). Discussion of mayoral appointees would have related to whether they had been approved (or at least interviewed) by the Republican or Democratic Committees and thus ready for consideration by the Appointments Committee in the upcoming month. Reference to clerk of the works contracts again would have related to whether they were being submitted at the right time or had been properly vetted.
“Every month we have 50-90 items on a Steering Committee agenda, which everyone has had a chance to review since the previous Friday. We meet for 35-45 minutes. Do you really think it is possible to get “substantive” in these meetings? The answer is NOT POSSIBLE. All we do is make sure each item is ready to be taken up, and that we have a clear understanding of the item. In some cases, the Mayor asks for clarity on an item that has been submitted by a Representative (or vice versa), or may feel that it conflicts with an initiative he has underway that is not (and should not) be public. So we might discuss that. In rare cases, a suggestion is made that perhaps a Committee Chair should not move an item, because it is not ready, conflicts with an initiative, or would be better introduced at a different time or as part of another item. But it remains the choice of the Committee Chair; and if he decides not to move an item, ANYBODY ELSE ON STEERING MAY DO SO. At the pre-steering meeting, the Steering Agenda NEVER CHANGES, AND WE DO NO BUSINESS OF THE CITY. At the conclusion of this meeting, we go down to the Steering Committee meeting. The Agenda is reviewed, with each Committee Chair free to move his agenda as he sees fit, and everyone else is free to make motions to move items if Chairs do not. Ultimately, the full Committee decides, and THAT IS THE FIRST TIME BUSINESS IS ACTUALLY DONE. This is the process for setting the Board Agenda each month.
“The reason the emails do not reference the actual nature of what is discussed is that it is taken for granted. “We discussed the Fire Plan” would have meant ”We discussed whether the Fire Plan would be taken up that month or not” or “We discussed when the Committee would be ready to schedule a public hearing.” It is similar to saying ”Let’s meet at Bradford’s Grill and Tavern after work.” Do you bother to say that you are planning on having drinks? No, because it is taken for granted. The same is true for any email describing a discussion of an item at Pre-Steering Leadership/Mayor meetings.”
The Darien Police announced today they are re-opening a 35-year-old cold case involving a dead body found on Ledge Road on Dec. 4, 1978.
Here’s the details, just released to us from the department:
The Darien Police Department is reexamining a 35 year old homicide case and is seeking information from the public. On the morning of December 4th, 1978, the body of Canadian citizen Greg Sjolander, age 36, was found behind an abandoned house at 143 Ledge Road (BMW of Darien’s present location). Sjolander had been shot two times with a firearm at close range. Sjolander was a parolee and had been working as a hairdresser in Montreal, Quebec, until April of 1978. Although little is known about Sjolander’s activities in the United States, at least three independent reports place Sjolander in the Stamford area. He may also have spent some time in New York City. The last confirmed sighting was in November of 1978 when Sjolander was observed exiting an apartment located on Ursula Place in Stamford. At the time of his death, Sjolander may have been using the alias “Paul Swanson”. Sjolander had at two distinctive tattoos on his arms which are being released to the media. One tattoo, written in script, reads “Terry my Love”. “Terry” is believed to be an American-born woman who was living in Montreal during the late 1970s; she has yet to be identified. “Terry” has been described as a black or bi-racial female with family ties to the New York City area.
The morning of Sjolander’s death, three males dining at the nearby Howard Johnson’s Restaurant (formerly located at 150 Ledge Road) were overheard discussing a murder. The males sat at the counter where they were served breakfast. The three males were described as follows:
- White male – neat, dressed like a workman;
- White male – tall, thin, wearing glasses. Described as neat, dressed like a workman;
- Black male – very dark skin, wearing a leather hat or cap, in his late 20s or early 30s.
The black male was observed skillfully drawing on a paper menu and a napkin with a felt type pen. These unique drawings were preserved by the witness and turned over to police. Photographs of these drawings are being provided to the media in an attempt to identify the men.
Evidence from the Sjolander homicide was processed by the FBI forensic lab in early 1979, long before the advent of DNA testing. Some of this evidence is being sent to the FBI Lab in Quantico, VA for reanalysis. Evidence is also being sent to the Connecticut State Forensic Lab for DNA testing.
Darien investigators believe that Sjolander’s death is connected with another unsolved murder from 1978. In June of 1978, Darien native Ronald Poole was found shot to death in Dutchess County, NY. Poole (AKA “Slump”) was a member of the Charter Oaks Motorcycle Club and was known to frequent the Ursula Place apartments in Stamford.
STAMFORD — The Board of Representatives, which elected its leadership Monday night, also named its committee membership. Here’s the full list:
- Annie M. Summerville and Anabel Figueroa, Co-Chairs
- Carl Franzetti, Vice Chair
- Jim Caterbone, Frank Cerasoli, Suzanne Doyle, Marion McGarry, Mary Savage, Ben Velishka, members
- Jay Fountain, Chair
- Frank Cerasoli, Vice Chair
- Elise Coleman, Harry Day, Gabe DeLuca, Monica Di Costanzo, Mary Fedeli, Anabel Figueroa, David Kooris, Elaine Mitchell and Keith Silver, members
Legislative and Rules:
- Eileen Heaphy, Chair
- Shella Merritt, Vice Chair
- Harry Day, Suzanne Doyle, Elaine Mitchell, Gail Okun, Kieran Ryan, Keith Silver and John Zelinsky, members
- Susan Nabel, Chair
- Mary Fedeli, Vice Chair
- Gloria DePina, Anabel Figueroa, Jay Fountain, JR McMullen, Valerie McNeil, Gail Okun and Mary Savage, members
Land Use/URC Committee:
- Harry Day and David Kooris, Co-Chairs
- Jay Fountain, Marion McGarry, Valerie McNeil, Gail Okun, Cynthia Reeder, Kieran Ryan and Annie Summerville, members
- Joseph Coppola, Chair
- John Zelinsky, Vice Chair
- Terry Adams, Brien Buckman, Elise Coleman, Willy Giraldo, Dennis Mahoney, JR McMullen and Cynthia Reeder, members
Public Safety and Health Committee:
- Gloria DePina, Chair
- Matthew Quinones, Vice Chair
- Terry Adams, James Caterbone, Joseph Coppola, Willy Giraldo, Steven Kolenberg, Lila Wallace and John Zelinsky, members
Parks and Recreation Committee:
- James Caterbone and Marion McGarry, Co-Chairs
- Gloria DePina, Suzanne Doyle, Philip Giordano, Eileen Heaphy, Dennis Mahoney, Susan Nabel and Kieran Ryan, members
- Mary Savage, Chair
- Brien Buckman, Frank Cerasoli, Monica Di Costanzo, Steven Kolenberg, Mavina Moore, Susan Nabel, Matthew Quinones and Benjamin Velishka, members
Housing/Community Development/Social Services Committee:
- Elaine Mitchell, Chair
- Lila Wallace, Vice Chair
- Philip Giordano, Dennis Mahoney, Valerie McNeil, Mavina Moore and Mary Deery Uva, members
- Robert “Gabe” DeLuca, Chair
- Terry Adams, Vice Chair
- Elise Coleman, Monica Di Costanzo, Carl Franzetti, Philip Giordano, Steven Kolenberg, David Kooris and Mavina Moore, members
State & Commerce Committee:
- Brien Buckman, Chair
- Mary Uva, Vice Chair
- Mary Fedeli, Eileen Heaphy, Shella Merritt, Matthew Quinones and Annie Summerville, members
- Randall M. Skigen, Elaine Mitchell, Annie Summerville, Gloria DePina, Marion McGarry, Mary Fedeli, Frank Cerasoli, Carl Franzetti, Brien Buckman, James Caterbone, Joseph Coppola, Harry Day, Gabe DeLuca, Anabel Figueroa, members
Board President Randy Skigen also named several assignments to special committees:
- Anti-Blight: Carl Franzetti
- Enterprise Zone: Shella Merritt
- Water Pollution Control Authority: Mary Uva
- Old Town Hall Redevelopment Authority: Harry Day and Annie Summerville
- Smith House: Jay Fountain
- School Building: Frank Cerasoli
- Classified Employee Retirement Fund: Randy Skigen
- Other Post Employment Benefits: Randy Skigen and Mary Fedeli
- Stamford Emergency Medical Services: Randy Skigen
- Downtown Special Services District: Randy Skigen
- Camera Review Committee: Randy Skigen
- Mill River Collaborative: Harry Day (the collaborative, not the Board of Reps president, makes this appointment)
STAMFORD — Mayor David Martin’s transition team has set up a website to keep residents informed during the mayor’s move into his new office on the 10th floor of the Government Center.
The website features information about Martin and his transition team, media coverage of his events and solicits resumes and ideas from the public. Check it out at martintransition.com.
“Reaching out and listening to the residents of Stamford should not end on election day,” Martin said in a news release. “The launch of our transition website is one tool for us to engage residents as we move into these first months.”