‘It’s a Pretty Apparent Conflict’: First Selectman Voices Concern About Parks & Rec Commissioner 


An appointed town official is risking a conflict of interest due to her position on a private nonprofit organization whose work involves the very area of municipal government she’s charged with overseeing, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said last week.

Unknown to Moynihan and without permission, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Sally Campbell last year became vice chairman of the Waveny Park Conservancy, he said during a media briefing. 

“She was there [on the Conservancy] as an ex-officio representative to the town government and she somehow thought it was right to become a legal board member and now she continues to come before her own Commission representing the Conservancy,” Moynihan said during the briefing, held in his office at Town Hall. “I don’t understand why she does that.”

He added: “It’s a pretty apparent conflict to me, and I’ve talked to her about it and I don’t understand why she doesn’t get it.”

Asked about her role on the Conservancy, Campbell told NewCanaanite.com in an email: “I am not sure what Kevin’s concern is. As first selectman he advocated to have town reps on many of the non profits in town, Waveny Conservancy being one of them.”

She added that she would discuss the matter with Moynihan.

During a subsequent phone interview, Campbell said she understood there to be a conflict only if she was chairman of Parks & Rec.

“I’m happy to serve any way,” she said, adding, “There is nothing nefarious happening here” and saying that Town Attorney Ira Bloom would be consulted when he returns to work in two weeks.

Moynihan’s comments came in response to a question at the briefing about Campbell’s failure to comply with state sunshine laws. 

Parks & Rec did not publicly notice its subcommittee meetings during her chairmanship—a problem that culminated, in February, in the Board of Selectmen postponing a vote on proposed tennis fees due to an apparent illegal meeting. The following month, Campbell announced that she was stepping down as chairman of Parks & Rec. She stayed on a regular member of the advisory body, saying she would come off of it at year’s end. Immediately after a new chairman took over, the Commission began to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, with both the Paddle Tennis and Waveny Pool Advisory Committees noticing public meetings held on March 18 and April 10, respectively. 

Under FOI law, a subcommittee of government bodies is itself a public agency that must open its meetings to the public.

Yet Campbell appeared not to change her practice as a regular commissioner. During the May 8 meeting of the Parks & Recreation Commission—the night before the media briefing with Moynihan—Campbell in providing the full body an update from its Waveny subcommittee said that she and fellow Commissioner Doug Richardson had met “within the past few weeks” with Recreation Director Steve Benko and Parks Superintendent John Howe to discuss a number of park-related items. That subcommittee meeting was not publicly noticed.

Regarding the meeting, Campbell said in her email that she asked town staff to post a public notice.

“That was the procedure that was agreed upon by our Commission after our FOI briefing by Carl Mason in March,” she said in the email. “Doug and I had no idea Steve did not post the meeting. The only other meeting our Commission had that I was aware of was a pool meeting that was posted.”

She referred to a FOI training session held in January at Town Hall, the result of the state Freedom of Information Commission’s unanimous vote against the town following a complaint brought by NewCanaanite.com in a case involving subcommittee work of the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee. Campbell did not attend the FOI training. The only member of Parks & Rec who did was Mason, a commissioner.

During the briefing, Moynihan said that “commission chairs were mandated to attend” it.

“There are a number of surprising things about how Sally operates,” Moynihan said.

4 thoughts on “‘It’s a Pretty Apparent Conflict’: First Selectman Voices Concern About Parks & Rec Commissioner 

  1. For several years I advocated to move the Parks and Recreation Commission meetings from Lapham Center to Town Hall and to have these meetings videotaped by Channel 79. Finally, on March 13, 2019 these meetings were held in Town Hall and videotaped for the first time. Hopefully, there will be more transparency and less surprises.

  2. As a 3 year member of the Parks and Rec Commission, and regardless of the communication protocol under discussion, we will be fortunate to ever again have a Commissioner like Sally Campbell. Fiscally responsible, tireless servant and a passionate leader, Sally has truly had the bests interests of our town and its citizens as her utmost priority. Visit and take a walk in any park and you will clearly see the fruits of her labor.

  3. Sally Campbell has given countless hours, displaying a determination to improve our town’s parks and playing fields. As head commissioner since 2014, she has a heck of a track record in doing so. Neglected were Bristow, Mead, Mill Pond, Lapham and Kiwanis. Hurting badly for funds to be able to bring our parks back to life, Sally has attended countless town meetings and worked hard to advocate for our parks saying that they require money for maintenance and that they are assets to cherish and use. Her goal has been to have them safe, accessible and used by and for our community. With intelligence and an open mind to consider all dilemmas brought before her, and ways to resolve them, she’s addressed many park problems. In her time as Chair Commissioner we have overseen transformations of Mead, Waveny, Spencer’s Run, Paddle Courts, Lapham Community Center, Kiwanis and Irwin, and that’s just mentioning the most transformed. Under her leadership we have become more proactive and more familiar with our Park Assets than before. Her seemingly tireless devotion to getting necessary funds approved to be able to achieve these improvements cannot go without notice to all of us who’ve been on the commission during her time with us. (Commission since 2009 and Chair of it since 2014.)
    I find it surprising and sad, even shameful that the Newcanaanite has taken issue with those in our community who volunteer their time, energy and ideas.

    Recently Keith Richey, Chair of Parking Commission, had to bear the brunt of an attack asking him to step down, when his focus was to ask that our Parking Attendants and Commissioners please pay attention to the bigger picture which is that we are grateful for in-town shoppers – wherever they come from, and that perhaps rigidly adhering to parking regulations during slow hours, is not in the town’s best interest.
    Sally’s focus, equally about our town’s best interest, has been to shed spotlight on our parks and have them reveal a selection of as well-maintained, accessible and beautiful parks offering nature and passive recreation as well as top quality active recreation spaces as budgeted money will allow. She’s commandeered a more reflective analytical approach to our parks so that we can come up with creative ways to have them either bring in revenue to offset the maintenance, and to be better used by the public, where they are in low use. She has been successful in this endeavor. We were sorry to see her leave her post as Chair in March. She has done so much for our town, I find it a sad and shameful display that she is being targeted. With regards to the FOI, she provided an email showing that she did ask that the meeting get posted. Regrettably, it never was and she was held accountable. Perhaps that’s justified, but it certainly deserves forgiveness instead of this public execution. I think it’s important to remember too, excoriating community volunteers will only drive people away from volunteering.

    Francesca Segalas
    NC Parks & Recreation Secretary and Commissioner, 8 years
    town resident since 1991

    • Francesca,

      Thank you for submitting your comment.
      Among certain other things, it’s a tribute to Sally Campbell’s contributions to the town through the Parks & Recreation Commission.
      I don’t believe the first selectman questioned those contributions. Rather, he responded candidly to a question about Campbell’s failure to comply with state sunshine laws. To you, it seems that question represents a news outfit “taking issue” with a government appointee. I wonder if the constituents you’re meant to represent—for example, New Canaanite readers who rely on this news site to understand what’s happening—would agree. Fortunately, as noted in this article, the Commission has moved recently toward greater compliance with the state Freedom of Information Act, your indignity notwithstanding.
      After Kevin Moynihan made his remarks, and before I published an article summarizing them, I extended to Campbell the professional courtesy of an email and follow-up phone call soliciting comment, and included her responses in the story. How that adds up to a “public execution” I don’t know, perhaps you can explain.
      Perhaps you also can explain how our editorial on Keith Richey adds up to “an attack.” It was written from the perspective of one of three people in the audience at the meeting who witnessed his mishandling of the parking enforcement question and his menacing of a municipal department head—transgressions that were indicative of a more pervasive problem. You were not one of those three people, and the meeting was neither recorded nor televised by Channel 79. Do you imagine, Francesca, that it’s your duty to “defend” at any cost those who also serve on municipal boards and commissions? You seem to think running illegal meetings, exercising poor leadership and threatening municipal department heads are OK so long as those things are done on a volunteer basis. Is it possible, in your view, for a board member or commissioner to fail? Please understand that holding government officials accountable is one basic function of news reporters.
      Finally, let me commend you on sharing your thoughts on all of this. It must have (or should have) taken special courage for you to level an accusation of “sad, even shameful” behavior—and especially to reference “rigidly adhering” to the rules—given your history of taking videos of park visitors breaking the rules, and then reporting them to police, only to be caught doing the same.
      Thank you again for commenting, and for your service to the town.

      Michael Dinan
      East School ’86

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