AP NEWS

Bob Horton: Another harbor panel chief bows to Tesei

July 2, 2016 GMT

The Harbor Management Commission may have a new chairman, but it continues to act as a political arm of the First Selectman’s office, ignoring a mandate to develop a long term harbor plan and aggressively determined to undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the state harbormaster for Greenwich.

The newest occupant of the commission’s chair is Old Greenwich attorney Bruce Angiolillo, elected this spring after not even First Selectman Peter Tesei could continue to endorse previous chairman Frank Mazza’s autocratic style and flouting of basic democratic protocols. A retired litigator, Angiolillo is now general counsel for TK Holdings, the North American subsidiary of Takata Corp., the company that makes exploding air bags for automobiles.

Angiolillo recently wrote an email to Ian Macmillan, State Harbormaster for Greenwich, who among other things had asked Angiolillo’s guidance about how to deal with unpermitted moorings in Greenwich waters. Such illegal moorings can pose navigational and safety hazards, particularly at low tide. The chairman’s response shows he has no understanding of the Harbormaster’s role; or, if he does understand it, he is purposefully discounting it.

In the email Angiolillo instructs the harbormaster to communicate in writing with the commissions mooring subcommittee. Fair enough. But then he delivers his own interpretation of Macmillan’s responsibilities: “It should go without saying that you have no public safety responsibilities in the [Greenwich Harbor Area] and in the event of an emergency involving health or safety of persons on the water you should immediately contact the Marine Division of the Police Department and the Coast Guard.”

The harbormaster’s actual job description — which is posted on the Connecticut Harbormaster’s Association website — reads as follows: “In ports and harbors along the Connecticut coast, and especially in the towns where the mix of water uses is most diverse, State Harbormasters and Deputy Harbormasters have a distinct and essential role for ensuring public safety and managing our waterways in the public interest. Theirs is the job of maintaining an orderly haven where all vessels, including commercial fishing boats, tugs and barges, recreational sail and power boats, ferries and excursion vessels, ocean-going ships, and even small, nonmotorized craft such as canoes and kayaks, may coexist in safety and harmony.”

So it seems the harbormaster’s job is all about public safety and health.

Angiolillo also stood before a public meeting this year and denounced Macmillan, claiming he abused the harbormaster’s small motorboat and strongly insinuated that Macmillan had been drinking while on the job. His proof? An unopened can of beer in the harbormaster’s boat. He also asked the question, “What does Ian Macmillan do?” And then answered that he did essentially nothing.

But if Macmillan does nothing, why did Angiolillo direct Macmillan to provide his commission, in writing, the following information: Preliminary Provisional Mooring Permit (PPMP) data; the date PPMP was granted; the name, address, email and telephone number of the mooring applicant; vessel name and registration number; vessel draft/required depth; mooring vendor; mooring tackle inspection information; latitude/longitude location of the mooring; mooring tackle and chain length.

Macmillan has this information because he and a few dedicated volunteers have spent their own time and money to map the location of hundreds of moorings in Greenwich Harbor. The task took thousands of man-hours and several years. Also, because the town doesn’t require applicant to provide most of this information, Macmillan has to follow up with phone calls to the boat owners. One would think that the secretary in the First Selectman’s Office, whose salary is paid in part by mooring application fees, should do that clerical work. Angiolillo and the commission know this, but continue to insult, harangue, and belittle the harbormaster’s accomplishments.

‘Invisible hand’

This is just the latest nonsense coming from Tesei’s Harbor Management Commission 3.0. The first selectman has systematically weeded out commission members who refused to play along with his punishment of Macmillan —the unlucky chap caught in the crosshairs of Tesei’s vendetta against Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Such behavior recently prompted Gary Silverberg to resign his seat as an alternate and sharply criticize the commission’s work.

In a letter to Tesei, Silverberg — who was a member of the harbor panels that existed before the Harbor Management Commission’s formation — wrote: “Throughout my service to the Town on this and the two predecessor committees, I was hopeful that with diligent efforts and a forthright approach, we could accomplish something positive for the town, but I now believe that I am sadly mistaken.”

“Everything the town and commission have done in its relation to the harbormaster has been atrocious and contrary to the spirit of cooperation. The town not only violates state statues and flaunts federal anchoring and mooring regulations, it even violates its own town ordinances and the special acts, which it so highly covets.”

“The continued pressure and ‘guidance’ by the ‘invisible hand’ in the corner office continues to divert the process from a productive and positive outcome to an attempt at retribution against the Governor for not appointing the chosen harbormaster candidate. The conduct of this commission is reprehensible…”

The letter, provided to me by someone other than Silverberg, goes on at length with criticisms of the proposed Harbor Management Plan and the town’s insistence that special acts passed by the state legislature in the late 1940s and early ’50s give Greenwich exceptional powers over Greenwich Harbor. Litigator Angiolillo is the strongest proponent of this belief, but Silverberg points out that a statute passed many years later puts the special acts in the context of Connecticut law.

The state statute Silverberg cites reads, in part, “The powers and duties of all existing harbor boards or boards of harbor commissioners under either the general statues or special acts of this state shall be vested in the (state transportation) commissioner but all such boards shall continue in the department to assist the commissioner in an advisory capacity, and to perform such duties as he may delegate to them.”

The town spent between $25,000 and $30,000 of mooring fees on an independent law firm hired to interpret that statute. That firm’s opinion, now several years old, agreed with the dominant role of the state. But that was inconvenient for Tesei, so he has ignored it and continues wasting money that could go toward safety improvements to Greenwich Harbor.

bobhorton@yahoo.com