Selectmen Devereaux and Williams Thank Mike Handler for Years of Effective Community Service

Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams on Tuesday thanked New Canaan’s recently ousted emergency management director for his years of effective volunteer work on behalf of the community. Citing a petition that has garnered more than 1,800 signatures calling for Mike Handler’s reinstatement, Devereaux during a regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen said he’s owed “a huge ‘thank you’ for the years of service that he volunteered to our community.”

“Mike’s was a voice we heard over the years during times of emergency and he diligently and clearly and eloquently kept us informed and calm,” Devereaux said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “In my opinion, New Canaan should be celebrating the years of volunteer work that Mike gifted our town and for his dedication to our wellbeing. And whatever the misunderstanding that caused this event, it should not keep the town from acknowledging MH’s long and effective volunteer service to the community. I don’t think he has been thanked.”

The comments came during a general discussion of matters before the town.

First Selectman in FOI’d Email: Town Council Chair Violated Code of Ethics 

The Town Council chair violated the Code of Ethics by mixing use of his own Realtor’s email account and promotion of a real estate panel with use of a town videoconferencing tool, New Canaan’s highest elected official said. Town Council Chair John Engel on May 17 promoted the panel through his Halstead email account, and in that email blast noted that the event would be held on a town Zoom account that was the same one he’d been using in his capacity as a public official, in a time slot that had been used for daily COVID-19 updates. In an email obtained by through a public records request, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan after being forwarded the promotional blast said that Engel “can’t use the Town’s Zoom account for his private real estate business activities.”

In fact, Engel had already used the Zoom account for a “conflicting meeting” without notifying the first selectman’s office, Moynihan said in an email to Selectman Nick Williams, adding, “This is an Ethics Code violation even [if] the financial benefit is small presumably.”

Questions around Engel’s use of the Zoom account appeared to start immediately after the promotional email went out of his Halstead address. Williams forwarded Moynihan the promotional blast that same morning, with a note saying: “I’m sorry, but isn’t this a mixing of a town resource/official position with a private business?”
Moynihan responded that Engel “has been indiscreet about building his email list for years.”

Moynihan said at first that he wasn’t sure Engel had committed a violation of the town Code of Ethics “when our email addresses are in the public domain.” But when Williams responded that Engel was using the town Zoom account “to establish a daily virtual town ‘meeting’ in his capacity as Chairman of our Town Council” and that he now was using the virtual daily gathering “as part of an ad campaign,” Moynihan said, “He should get his own account for his business.”

Under New Canaan’s Code of Ethics, “No official or employee shall participate in any Town or Board matter in which he or she has a financial interest or a personal interest,” where “official” refers to both elected and appointed officials.

Town Re-Starts Enforcement of Two-Hour Parking Limit Downtown

With more local businesses reopening and greater numbers of shoppers and diners visiting the downtown, municipal officials this week re-started enforcement of two-hour time limits for on-street parking. For two weeks, parking enforcement officers have been issuing “courtesy tickets” to motorists who leave their vehicles for hours on end in free spaces on Elm and Main Streets, among other streets downtown—not fining violators, but urging them to use what have been designated free municipal lots such as Morse Court, Park Street and Playhouse. Yet the meters in those lots also will be enforced again after August, following a 2-0 vote by the Board of Selectmen at its regular meeting Tuesday. “I think it’s a good experiment to continue July and August with the free parking but I think to continue beyond Sept. 1, we hopefully will be much more back to normal by Labor Day,” Moynihan said during the meeting, held via videoconference.