Municipal officials who have worked closely with Mike Handler for years as members of the New Canaan Emergency Operations Center describe him as respectful, professional and skilled—a description that is at odds with a picture that has been painted by the town’s highest elected official. The widely popular emergency management director resigned from the volunteer position last week at the request of First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, setting off impassioned debate among New Canaan residents who long have been accustomed to Handler’s timely and reassuring updates during emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Moynihan has said Handler’s own “conduct” brought on the request for his resignation, offering no details other than that there was an issue of “respect” and that complaints regarding Handler had come in for an extended period of time, from health officials and others. Handler called those allegations “hurtful and baseless,” and town officials responded to a public records request for any emails Health Department staff complaining about him to Moynihan in the week prior to his dismissal by saying there weren’t any. Asked for an assessment of the job Handler did with the EOC, Fire Chief Jack Hennessey said he’s worked with Handler since coming to New Canaan in 2006 and he “never witnessed any harsh or mistreatment of any of the volunteer or town staff team members working in the EOC over the numerous activations we have had in the past 10 years.”
“Mike Handler and his team has always done an exemplary job for the town of New Canaan,” Hennessey said.