Town hires new IT director, denies conflict of interest

After much discussion, Greenwich resident Thomas Klein was hired as head of IT for Town Hall — Ken Borsuk

After much discussion, Greenwich resident Thomas Klein was hired as head of IT for Town Hall — Ken Borsuk

The town has a new IT director, but not without some controversy first over a potential conflict of interest.

At its Feb. 20 meeting, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the hiring of Greenwich resident Thomas Klein as the new director of information technology for the town, putting him in charge of all network and computer issues for town government. Mr. Klein’s first day on the job will be April 16 and he said at the meeting that he was looking forward to the new challenge.

“I really do appreciate this opportunity and I’m very much looking forward to it,” Mr. Klein said. “I’ve lived in town for 16 years. My wife and I just fell in love with the town the moment we got here. I’m looking to make a very big impact on technology for the town and I’m really looking forward to getting started.”

Mr. Klein comes to the job with years of experience in computers and IT. He is currently a senior content architect with Avon Products, where he is responsible for the planning, design, delivery, and support of the company’s digital marking echo systems, including social media commerce and mobile applications. He had previously worked as director of IT for Forbes Inc. and as a senior director at Time Inc., where he oversaw strategy and content initiatives like alignment of IT and digital brands. Mr. Klein will start with a yearly salary of $150,000 in his new position working for the town.

First Selectman Peter Tesei praised Mr. Kelin’s qualifications.

“In addition to his superior professional credentials, Tom has excellent interpersonal and communication skills and has demonstrated a record of leadership,” Mr. Tesei said. “I became convinced that not only would he be a very good fit for the town but his experience, expertise and temperament are exactly the qualities needed to lead the town’s information technology efforts forward for the betterment of our citizens and our employees.”

However, it wasn’t Mr. Klein’s experience that raised some eyebrows but rather his connection to the Republican two-thirds of the board that picked him. Mr. Klein set up campaign websites for First Selectman Peter Tesei in 2007 and Selectman David Theis in 2009 when they both ran for their first terms on the board and Mr. Tesei acknowledged that Mr. Klein had been a financial contributor to his four successful runs for office.

Democratic Selectman Drew Marzullo, who ultimately voted in favor of Mr. Klein, said his concerns were based not on skills or experience but on the relationship between Mr. Klein and his two colleagues on the board. Mr. Marzullo said he had thought a great deal about the matter before making his decision about whether there was a conflict of interest in this hiring.

“It is important for Mr. Klein to be given every opportunity to succeed,” Mr. Marzullo said. “I want him to be successful with the support of all three of us. A successful IT department leader needs to be someone well qualified and impressive like Mr. Klein because it benefits Town Hall and, more importantly, benefits Greenwich. That’s why I’ll be supporting him. … But with that said, it’s important to remember that we have an obligation that we see to it that fair hiring practices are followed and people are treated fairly, independent of political affiliation and independent of you contributing to someone’s campaign. A qualified person should always feel they have been afforded a fair opportunity at leadership roles when applying for a government job no matter who he or she knows or no matter he or she votes for.”

Mr. Marzullo said he was concerned about the perception of possible problems but agreed that Mr. Klein was qualified and deserved the job. He noted it was a lengthy hiring process with multiple interviews and chances for evaluation.

Speaking at the Feb. 20 meeting, Mr. Tesei denied there was any kind of conflict of interest. He said party affiliation played no role in the choice.

“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Tom Klein since 2006 when he and his wife spoke before the Board of Estimate and Taxation in favor of the Glenville School renovation,” Mr. Tesei said. “I have considered whether these interactions would affect my judgment on Tom’s suitability for this important town job and I have determined they have not. During the interview process, I learned a great deal about the depth and breadth of the IT experience Tom offers to a potential employer.”

Mr. Theis added that in his four years on the board he didn’t think an applicant had been more “thoroughly vetted” than Mr. Klein. Mr. Theis said his relationship with Mr. Klein was a friendly one and that, after his campaign website was initially set up, there hadn’t been much need for business between them and the experience had given him the chance to see Mr. Klein’s skills before he had even known he would apply for the position. He called Mr. Klein’s seeking of the job four years after setting up his website and six years after setting up a site for Mr. Tesei “coincidental.”

“Any criticism, I think, is unwarranted, and I think it’s time to move forward,” Mr. Tesei said. “We should feel grateful that we have this kind of talent in our community that’s willing to step up and serve and be committed to working and living in Greenwich.”

Mr. Klein was chosen from an initial pool of 52 applications that was whittled down to 15 candidates who were deemed qualified by the town’s Department of Human Resources for an interview. Mr. Tesei said that pool of 15 included three internal candidates, one elected official and one former member of the Representative Town Meeting, none of whom were publicly identified. A panel, including Town Administrator John Crary, town Director of Human Resources Mary Pepe, Commissioner of Public Works Amy Siebert, Phillip Dunn, IT director for the Greenwich Public Schools, and John Blankley, who runs a computer systems design company and was Mr. Tesei’s Democratic challenger in 2011, was convened to interview the candidates.

Out of those 15 interviews, four emerged for a second interview, one of whom withdrew from consideration. Two of those candidates, including Mr. Klein, were brought in for a third round of individuals interviews, including with Mr. Theis and Mr. Marzullo. While Mr. Tesei didn’t delve into the specifics, he said that seven of the eight panelists recommended Mr. Klein as the best candidate for the job, leading to his being hired.


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