Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Further Adventures of "Not My Job"

I attended part of Monday's City Council meeting, after having sat through an interesting if not somewhat disquieting informational session offered by a firm who investigated the Norwich part of the Norwich Hospital property and offered an environmental impact review of approximate costs for hazardous material remediation.

Here's one of the local paper's reports and here's the other one (but it won't be around very long before you have to buy it, so be quick!) but here's what neither reporter felt needed to be in the story: the files at the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and/or Department of Health have/had holes where various parties, the mention Monday night was 'recently' (in the last few months), had reviewed the surveys and inventories and removed information from the files.

I sat in the back of the Council chambers and let that tidbit wash over me. Instead of a departmental employee making a copy of some aspect of the file that an interested party desired, the original was allowed to walk out the door, never to be seen again. Considering my tax money in some form, and yours too, was expended to gather the information from I don't know how many reports in the course of the years, as far as I'm concerned, what happened is, pure and simple, theft. I was crestfallen at the nonchalance with which the two folks from VHB, the firm offering Monday night's overview, shared this glaring gap. But what could they do?

I waited to see if one or the other might offer what I still call 'an Air Force salute' (both shoulders shrug), but there was no need as no one on the City Council, who had the written report in advance for their review, seemed to feel it was worthwhile asking about the missing or partially missing files on previous surveys of on-site hazardous materials. Soon enough, they'll make a decision to purchase, or not purchase, this property and why worry about facts not in evidence? I nearly get it.

Monday night was a busy Council agenda-as if there have been any meetings of this City Council that haven't been full of action and decision (yes JJ, I mean you). This overview was, after all, an informational session, and the aldermen do have the written report to refer to later on if a decision to go ahead gets hobbled by the discovery of previously unknown (and very expensive to remove) environmental hazards that could have been reported previously in inventories that evaporated into thin air.

Of course, no one has or will ever have any idea who cherry-picked any of the files that were developed, as I understood this, in the last two decades. It's not important, really, as no one is especially keen to sanction anybody for theft and/or lack of diligence in safeguarding state property. That's the great thing about vague and nebulous chains of custody. No one is accountable and when things go bump, or just go away, in the night, no one is responsible.

Same philosophy applied during the 'real' meeting when the Council approved the Sachem Fund Board recommendations even when a number of speakers, during citizen comment, expressed disquiet at the review and decision process and/or disregard for submission deadlines. I worked for someone once who offered 'rules are for people who don't know better.'

He'd have fit right in around here. With eyes to the sun and your mouth to the soda. Saying 'tell me the truth, you've got nothing to fear'. Except one another and, of course, ourselves. Where's that report on the dangers? What do you mean, gone?
-bill kenny

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