Why is the town obsessing about the harbormaster?

Frank Farricker Greenwich VoicesComedy reigns on the waterfront of Greenwich, while literally hundreds of thousands of your dollars are wasted by the first selectman and his clan of angry associates.

If it wasn’t so sad, you’d laugh at the incredible amount of wasted time, money and taxpayer-funded man-hours to fight any work completed by Ian MacMillan, the $600-a-year harbormaster.

The background is that Peter Tesei formed a committee to select a harbormaster replacement for Jon Asch, who was driven off the job more than three years ago. The committee selected a former Stamford policeman, a frequent and vocal antagonist of the governor, offering no other options, as the law permits.

Meanwhile, Gov. Malloy’s administration solicited names and I offered up Ian MacMillan, a previous finalist for the position. That is the name that was selected and Mr. MacMillan won this coveted job with its fantastic $600-a-year salary. This did not sit well at all with Tesei and his aforementioned angry clan, so they decided to bring the full weight of town resources either to discredit the harbormaster or twist the facts so aggressively to the governor that they could convince MacMillan to step aside.

And boy have they spent your tax dollars to do so. A recent Freedom of Information request, which was complied with only in part, shows that an unbelievable amount of expense has been spent just on “going after” the harbormaster. For example, Assistant Town Attorney Aamina Ahmad has worked over 156 hours in the past two years just on Ian MacMillan issues as well as another 146 hours on harbor-related issues.

So the legal department, under the direction of the first selectman, burned two months of the time of one staffer, and incurred uncounted hours from Town Attorney Wayne Fox for a $600-a-year harbormaster. And exactly to what end?

The staff of the first selectman’s office, some paid, others volunteer, have burned up your money to tilt at this particular windmill. Emails from the incomplete FOIA request found Town Administrator John Crary, Special Assistant Dustin Anderson and Harbor Committee Chairman Frank Mazza spending countless amount of time analyzing the phone bill of Mr. MacMillan to determine whether or not the reimbursement he was seeking on a $100 request accurately “breaks out the time he is at work.”

There are literally 50 emails parsing out why the harbormaster should be excluded from certain responsibilities just on placing buoys for a rowing lane, and why residents and groups should be exempted from state law regarding the placement of buoys in shellfish beds. The partial compliance of the FOI request shows over 1,100 emails in the last two years sent dedicated solely to the attention of MacMillan. Not to mention the countless attempts to undermine MacMillan with his supervisors in Hartford.

What these emails don’t show is any complaints about the conduct of his job. They are all complaints about style, but most importantly complaints that he doesn’t knuckle under to the somewhat arbitrary control of the first selectman and his band of angry followers.

It is best summarized in an email from a high police official who said, “I’m usually in a position of authority and can coerce [people] into cooperating, however in this instance he [the Harbormaster] doesn’t recognize the commission’s authority.” And that is it in a nutshell.

Regardless of the efficacy of his work, and MacMillan has many prominent supporters, he is just not on “Team Tesei,” a team dedicated with holding on to its dwindling authority, special perks and appearance of control. And so they will spend and spend your money to win the point, which is what exactly? Is it control over the $233,000 unaccountable special fund from mooring fees? Is it to show the governor that he can’t mess with the team?

It sure doesn’t seem like it’s about safe and well-maintained waterways for the $600 we pay for the privilege.


Frank Farricker is the chairman of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee but the opinions presented here are his own.

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