Tag Archives: First Selectman Jim Marpe

New Civilian Panel Reviews Police

Soon after the 2013 election, new First Selectman Jim Marpe met with Police Chief Dale Call and Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas.

“I’d never been a police officer,” Marpe — a former management consultant — says. “I needed their best input.”

Today, he notes, “I’m a lot smarter about their activity — and the Fire Department, and EMS.” Though the leaders of those department report to him, Marpe describes their relationship as “more collaborative than command-and-control.”

Nearly 5 years ago, Marpe appointed Koskinas as chief of police. He continued what Call had begun: a review of policies and procedures to reflect new national policing standards.

Westport’s manual dated back to 1972. It was one year younger than Koskinas.

The department enjoys an excellent reputation. In 7 years, Marpe says, “I don’t need 2 hands to count the number of genuine, legitimate complaints we’ve gotten — and that includes the Fire Department too.”

Nationally of course, police departments face intense scrutiny.

So — in addition to weekly meetings, and many more frequent phone conversations — Marpe has created a Citizen Review Panel. To “foster and maintain the public’s trust” in its public safety departments, the panel will:

  • Participate in the interview process of new hires and lateral transfer applicants of the Police, Fire and EMS Departments
  • Review and provide feedback on complaints
  • Advise the departments on policies and procedures that improve transparency and accountability.

CRP members will be trained to understand policies, internal affairs and legal issues. They’ll hold regular public meetings.

The CRP will include the 2nd and 3rd selectmen (currently Jen Tooker and Melissa Kane); one member of TEAM Westport, and 2 members of the Westport electorate. Marpe has appointed TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey to the panel, and will name the 2 other members soon.

Westport Police Chief Fotios Koskinas (Photo/Dan Woog)

Koskinas says that the police union is on board with the CRP. “They want accountability and transparency too,” he says.

Westport’s police already meet or exceed the state’s Police Office Standards and Training (POST) guidelines in areas like body cameras, chokehold procedures and more. Minority recruitment — including the most recent hire — is “the most diverse ever,” says Koskinas.

“But we want an outside party to see the complaints that come in. We want to highlight how well we handle our internal policing.” Sometimes, he says, an investigation turns up an issue that the initial complaint did not even include.

In 2016 there were 6 civilian complaints against the Police Department. The next year there were 5, then 6 and 8. In 2020, there have been a total of 3. Complaints against the Fire Department and EMS are even lower.

Most police complaints, Koskinas says, involve citizens dissatisfied with an interaction with an officer.

“It may be the way someone stopped the car or spoke to that person,” Koskinas explains.

“We look at the body camera. Maybe the officer spoke in a monotone. We try to explain what goes into controlling a scene.” Often, he says, a complaint is then withdrawn.

“But we do speak to the officers. We do adjust policies. We take every complaint seriously.”

Nearly all police interactions with the public are positive.

The Representative Town Meeting is currently examining a Civilian Review Board ordinance. Its members would be elected by the public.

Already though, the Civilian Review Panel is up and running. They are reviewing their first incident.

“Mr. Marpe and I believe in this,” Koskinas says. “We want to set it up for long success.”

Roundup: High School Mock Election, Playhouse Video, More


Bipartisan politicians gathered in front of Staples High School yesterday. The mission: introducing a statewide initiative to educate Connecticut students about the voting process.

All week long, the state Department of Education is partnering with the lieutenant governor to hold a virtual mock election.

Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz headed the dignitaries. She noted that 20% of all 20-year-olds vote in elections — but 80% of 80-year-olds do.

First Selectman Jim Marpe noted that Westport has already received 9,500 requests for mail-in ballots for the presidential election. So far, 4,700 have been returned, via mail or the Town Hall drop box.

State Senator Tony Hwang said that his parents — who escaped from communist China — knew that the ability to vote was “foundational” to a democracy.

Will Haskell graduated from Staples in 2014. Four years later, he was elected to the State Senate. He said that young people are underrepresented in Hartford and Washington, but that “all voices are valued.”

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg — another Staples grad — added that “young people want to be engaged, in positive ways.”

From left: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas, State Senator Tony Hwang, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, members of Staples’ Social Studies Honor Society, and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg. Also in attendance: State Senator Will Haskell, and Westport 6-12 social studies coordinator Lauren Francese. 


Saturday’s Remarkable Theater screening celebrating 90 years of the Westport Country Playhouse was a smash.

Response was so great — both at the Imperial Avenue drive-in and online — that it will remain available on demand through tonight (11:59 p.m.). Tickets are $25. (Ticket-holders from Saturday: Your unique link is also live through tonight.)

The Playhouse is just $20,000 of their goal for the event. Funds help make up for the loss of the gala this year. Click here for an on-demand ticket, and to make additional gifts.


The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is hosting a series of online discussions called “CCM CARES – Getting Comfortable With The Uncomfortable.”

CARES stands for “Communities Advancing Racial Equity Series,” On the panel today (Tuesday, October 19, 6:30 p.m.): Westport 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

To register, click here. You can watch without registering on Facebook Live(Hat tip: Peter Gold)

First Selectman Jim Marpe


And finally … on this date in 1973, Richard Nixon fired Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, after they refused to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. After what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre, Cox was finally fired by Robert Bork, the #3 man at the Justice Department.

 

Marpe’s Message: Do Not Congregate This Weekend. Look Out For Each Other. Don’t Point Fingers. Be Safe.

First Selectman Jim Marpe says:

I’d like to update you on a number of aspects of the COVID-19 crisis that we are all facing. All the following information is on the Town website: www.westportct.gov. Please keep in mind that this is a fluid situation and conditions may change.

First, as we approach the weekend where the tendency is to leave our homes and socialize, it is more imperative than ever to stress the need for everyone to take this situation seriously and self-isolate.

Do not congregate in any location anywhere. This includes the town beaches, and Parks & Recreation and school facilities. If you must get provisions, practice social distancing at all times, even outside. These measures not only protect you, they are necessary to protect the public health and those around you.

This was the sight last Sunday at Compo Beach. It cannot be repeated this weekend.

Let me also assure you that the emphasis of town management activity is based on proven emergency response strategies. For the time being our Incident Response Team is focused on containment. Many other decisions will need to be made in the near future, but that is the status as of right now.

As I reported yesterday, 42 Westport residents have tested positive for COVID-19. That number is expected to grow. The virus is definitely among us. The Westport Weston Health District has tests scheduled for the next 3 Tuesdays. These will be conducted solely for Weston and Westport residents and by appointment only.

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce has prepared a list of restaurants that are available for curbside takeout and delivery, as well and stores that offer special hours for seniors to shop. Click here to see.

Curbside pick-up and delivery is available from many restaurants in town.

In future videos and postings there will be information relative to how upcoming town public meetings will be conducted, including how the budget process will proceed.  Also, we anticipate discussions on business recovery and town recovery plans when the time is appropriate.

These are unprecedented times. It is vital that we manage our emotions and natural anxieties.

Perhaps take a moment to call a neighbor, friend or family member who may need a personal contact and a friendly voice. Of course, we cannot physically get close, but we may be able provide some level of comfort to those less fortunate or in circumstances more dire than our own.

My office has received numerous e-mails and calls relative to a particular incident in Westport that seemingly precipitated the spread of the coronavirus in town. While I understand the inclination for some to know the numbers, know exact locations and the identities of people involved, it is now past the point where any of that is relevant. The fact of the matter is that this could have been any one of us, and rumor-mongering and vilification of individuals is not who we are as a civil community.

Please be assured that Westport’s public safety, health and municipal officials are in constant contact with each other, and state authorities and experts, while we make day-to-day and hour-to-hour decisions. Many will not appreciate the severity of the directives, while others will feel they are not drastic enough. I appreciate your opinion, but everything is managed and implemented to benefit all residents.

Town Hall is closed to the public. However, municipal officials are working tirelessly on the coronavirus crisis. And employees are available by phone and email. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

I would also like to take this moment to emphasize that I cannot be prouder of the response of our town employees. These dedicated personnel are among the most experienced and professional people that can be working on your behalf.  I appreciate their support, and I hope you will acknowledge their service if you see them – of course with appropriate social distancing.

In the meanwhile, continue to self-isolate and follow all the advice of the CDC: Wash your hands thoroughly, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw it away, keep surfaces sanitized, do not touch your face, and maintain social distancing. Follow us through social media and the website www.westportct.gov/covid19

Together, we will weather this crisis. Thank you and have a safe weekend.

To view this message as a video, click below:

Town Closes Beach Playground, Parking Lot

First selectman Jim Marpe says:

First of all, thank you to all our Westport residents for your cooperation during these unprecedented times.

Many of you have self-isolated in order to flatten the curve and curb the spread of COVID-19. I appreciate your actions.

Unfortunately, we believe you will need to do even more for the foreseeable future. Given the early spring-like weather, many of you have taken advantage of our beautiful Compo Beach and have congregated there.

We must remind you that congregating, even outdoors, in small or large groups, is contradictory to the advice of our Health Department leadership.

As a practical matter, we cannot close the entire access to Compo Beach.  However, we will be closing the playground at Compo Beach and the parking lots at Compo Beach and Burying Hill beach until further notice.

Whether you are using the beaches or just trying to get out of the house for a while, please do everything you can to practice social distancing and self-isolation.

Together we can minimize the impact of this terrible virus on our community. We have to work together and use common sense. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in these difficult times.

You can still go to Compo Beach. But the playground and parking lot are closed. (Photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

Pic Of The Day #941

First Selectman Jim Marpe (right) and artist Mark Yurkiw, at at the PoP’TArt pop-up gallery , 1 Main Street. The current show — with plenty of provocative work — is called “Words Matter.”

Colin Corneck: Veterans Inspire Me To Serve

Colin Corneck is a Staples High School senior. A soccer team member and swim team captain, he’s already received a Naval ROTC college scholarship. He’s also applying to the US Naval Academy.

He was chosen to represent Staples, at this morning’s Veterans Day ceremony in Town Hall. Here’s Colin’s address:

I am honored to come before you today. I was recently selected to give this speech because of my passion for serving our country. I’m fortunate to attend a school where there are several of us with the same interest – so on behalf of all of us, thank you.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity. And thank you for allowing me to join you today where I am surrounded by greatness — the greatness of each and every one of you – our American veterans.

Colin Corneck

Right now, I’m in the midst of the college application process. My goal is to become a naval officer after attending university. I have been fortunate enough to receive an NROTC scholarship and am applying to the Naval Academy.

I would like to thank our veterans for your heroic sacrifices. Your bravery and willingness to serve made it possible for my generation to be here today, a debt that can never be repaid but that instead should be paid forward.

When I was in 8th grade at Bedford Middle School, I was given the opportunity to hear from veterans, possibly even from some of you sitting before me today. I remember a particular story from a World War II veteran, who enlisted at the age of 16 and fought in the Pacific.

While I looked around and saw that my classmates were captivated hearing the courageous story, I felt touched on what I think might have been a deeper level. I don’t think I fully appreciated that many World War II veterans were my age when they began their service, but I was able to realize the momentous sacrifices that members of our armed forces make for the safety of the rest of the country. This was the first time I felt the calling, and the desire to try and follow the extraordinary footsteps each and every one of you has left behind.

I’m privileged to come before you today to talk about service and what it means to me. I come from a long line of people who served in the armed forces, including great-grandparents who fought in World War II and my father, who was a naval intelligence officer assigned to a Marine Corps F-18 squadron and then to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. I often talk to my dad about his military service.

He speaks of his time in service with the highest degree of pride, and tells me that it was one of his greatest life choices. It has developed him into a great leader, father, and overall person.

Veterans salute during the national anthem, at today’s Town Hall ceremony.

My discussions with him excite me to serve as I want to look back on my life knowing that I made a difference in the world, and that my time on this earth was well spent.

Service to me means the opportunity to protect our nation’s values. Just as the veterans we honor today put their lives on the line to protect our democracy and the ideas we stand for as a country, I want to do the same.

We are blessed to live in the greatest country on earth, created by ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and embedded in the Constitution. The ideals of personal freedom and self-government are enabled and protected by our Armed Forces.

The veterans among us today who fought in World War II protected our democratic style of government, and defeated armies fueled by the fascist fire of hatred. The veterans among us today who fought in Korea and Vietnam traveled halfway around the world to protect our allies and give them the opportunity to live democratically just as we do.

The veterans among us today who served in the Middle East and Afghanistan worked to stabilize regions and fight off terror before it gets to the front lines of our nation.

For your sacrifices and accomplishments, I thank you. Each and every one of you has been an inspiration to serve, and I hope to be able to protect our country in the same fashion that you have.

I was asked during one of my Academy interviews how I thought I would fit in with people who have very different backgrounds. Recently, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a group of West Point cadets: male, female, ethnically diverse, and from many different parts of the US. Regardless of background, what brought each and every one of us to that table was a strong connection forged by both a common belief in our country’s values and a commitment to defend those values.

Color guard, at today’s ceremony.

The same can be said for the various branches represented in this room. While there will always be friendly rivalries, there is a broader bond that unites anyone who has served in any capacity in any branch of our military.

I have a lot to learn – and relish moments like this where I can be in the company of each of you. You can teach us all so much. I also have a lot to give. I am extremely excited to enter the next chapter of my life, and to have the opportunity to serve.

One last time I would like to thank each and every one of you for your service. I am inspired to stand among you.

Today’s Veterans Day ceremony also included remarks from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. He noted Westport’s support of all service members — from the Catch a Lift events, to the VFW and its fundraisers, to Homes with Hope’s supportive housing.

He urged all Westporters to re-commit to making sure that “all our veterans are able to live their lives in dignity, accessibility, and with a peace of mind that comes with our ongoing support.”

The Wilkinson family — Emma, Augie, Jack and Melody — remember their grandfather and great-grandfather who served.

 

Refreshing New Look For Westport’s Website

So much of Westport sparkles.

Our transformed library. Compo Beach, from the playground and pavilion to the new South Beach walkway and grills. Longshore. Staples High School. The Saugatuck River. From Harbor Road to Beachside Avenue, Sherwood Mill Pond to Mahackeno, this is a truly remarkable town.

Our website, however, sucked.

Last updated in 2011 — after 2 previous equally grim versions — it was an ugly, bloated mess. Typography, layout, massive text and lack of photos  — all that wouldn’t have been so bad, if you could easily find what you were looking for.

But you could not.

Happily, as of today Westport’s official website is as crisp, clear and clean as so many of our other wonders.

The new website landing page.

Don’t believe me? Click here!

The new site was more than 2 years in the making. First Selectman Jim Marpe appointed a Website Redevelopment Steering Committee, including town staff and residents with expertise in technology, design, economic development and community interests.

They worked with Granicus, a company that specializes in website services for local governments.

Since the 2011 version debuted, users have migrated from desktops to mobile devices. The new website, all agreed, had to be mobile-friendly.

In addition, town operations director Sara Harris says, users needed quicker access to information.

“Popular services” and “I Want To…” provide quick access to information.

One key feature of the new design is a better search bar. The former “mega-menu” has been cleaned up and streamlined.

The committee used Google Analytics to rearrange the “How do I…?” section. The most popular requests — regarding, for example, beach passes, railroad parking permits, town maps, employment opportunities, open bids and bid results, and videos of town meetings — are given the most prominence.

A one-click “Popular Services” section makes it easier to pay taxes, register for programs, and get meeting agendas and minutes.

News is more prominently displayed on the home page.

There are more photos too, showing (of course) Westport at its best and most beautiful.

An “Economic Opportunity” page is aimed at anyone considering opening a business or relocating here. The goal, Harris says, is to show the town’s great quality of life, and support of business.

For the first time, Westport is marketing directly to businesses and employers.

The site now offers a 1-click link to subscribe to some (or all!) town notifications: emergency alerts, meeting information, news, you name it.

And — this is very, very cool — the Town Charter, plus every ordinance and regulation (including Planning & Zoning, the Conservation Commission, and Parks & Recreation Commission) are all available on one page.

As often happens, after the 2011 website went live certain sections lay dormant. Now, every department has a designated content manager. They’re trained on how to keep their own pages fresh and updated — and respond to users’ evolving needs.

The Parks & Recreation page is one of the most visited on the town’s website.

As part of the project, volunteers with marketing and design backgrounds — including graphic artist Miggs Burroughs; advertising creative director Rob Feakins; brand innovation principal and Westport Downtown Merchants Association president Randy Herbertson, and marketer Jamie Klein — worked to refresh the town’s “brand identity.”

Westport’s new website logo.

They eventually settled on a new logo. Designed by Samantha Cotton — who grew up in and now works here — it suggests open space, the movement of water or sails, and “open warmth and refreshing coolness.”

After a month of testing by the committee and town staffers, the new website went live yesterday.

Harris says, “We’re confident that users will be happy with the experience. We think it represents the town very well.”

She invites residents — and everyone else — to test-drive the new website. The URL is the same: www.westportct.gov.

What do you think? Click “Comments” here.

And/or email the town directly: webmaster@westportct.gov.

Of course, you can also do it from the site itself. Nearly every page has a “feedback” button.

It’s simple. It’s easy.

And that’s the whole idea behind the refreshing new website refresh.

A highlight of the new WestportCT.gov website is the Highlights page.

Marpe’s Marriage

First Selectman Jim Marpe was not in the office — or on call — Saturday.

He had a good excuse. He and his wife Mary Ellen were giving away their daughter Samantha in marriage. The ceremony was held at the US Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland — the groom’s alma mater.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and his daughter Samantha.

The 2002 Staples High School and 2006 Penn State graduate — now a recruiter with Henkel Search Partners, a New York firm specializing in private equity firm recruitment — married Kristofer Andy Sandor.

A lieutenant nuclear submarine officer who worked in the office of the Secretary of Defense, he also served as a White House social aide in the Bush and Obama administrations. An MBA graduate of Stanford with a master’s from Georgetown, he’s now in the private sector, most recently as general manager of Citi Bike.

Samantha Marpe and Kristofer Sandor.

According to the New York Times they met in 2016 through a dating app, the League.

(Hat tip: Avi Kaner)

State Of The Town

Presidents have their State of the Union address.*

Governors have their State of the State.

This Sunday (February 10), Jim Marpe tells us all the State of the Town.

The first selectman will be joined by Board of Education chair Mark Mathias. After they deliver their thoughts on the town and schools, RTM deputy moderator Jeffrey Wieser will lead a question-and-answer session.

The event — a joint initiative of Westport Sunrise Rotary and the Westport Rotary Club — is set for 4 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium.

Judging by one criterion, the state of the town is very good: There are refreshments afterward, in the lobby.

*Sometimes.

Town Hall is the site of Sunday’s State of the Town event.

First Night Dims — But First Light Shines On New Year’s Eve

Last month, First Night organizers announced the cancellation of this year’s New Year’s Eve festivities. Economics, changing entertainment options and an aging board all contributed to the demise of the 20+-year tradition.

But not everyone got the word.

On Saturday, December 15, the  Westport Historical Society held its final “Holly Day” celebration. As kids lined up for horse-drawn carriage rides and Santa’s lap, parents asked if they could buy First Night buttons. For years, the WHS had sold them there.

Horse-drawn sleighs were a feature of First Night. They’ll be back at First Light.

Giving the news that First Night was over saddened WHS executive director Ramin Ganeshram and her staff. “It was a beloved event,” she says. “Organizers made sure there was something for everything.”

That night, she asked WHS employees whether the Avery Place institution should offer a New Year’s Eve celebration for the town.

“NO! ” replied the staff, exhausted after weeks of their own holiday events.

But on Monday morning, director of operations Alicia D’Anna told Ganeshram she had a change of heart. She and her husband had talked. They wanted the WHS to do something after all.

In a local version of a Christmas miracle, the Historical Society took just a few days to develop Westport’s newest tradition: First Light.

It includes many favorite First Night activities, including performances, horse-drawn carriage rides, face painting, a digital caricaturist, a henna artist, and food trucks.

Plus a big bonfire right next door to WHS, on Veterans Green.

The WHS crew worked like Santa’s elves to get everything in place. They had help from many folks at Town Hall. Ganeshram singled out First Selectman Jim Marpe, for going “above and beyond” to make things happen.

TD Bank stepped up big time too, offering a venue for events that don’t fit in the cute but cramped WHS Wheeler House headquarters.

So First Night is gone. But First Light — at first just a flicker — has now grown into a full New Year’s Eve flame.

(First Light is set for 4 to 9 p.m. on Monday, December 31. Buttons are $10 online, $15 at the door; children under 2 go free. Click here to purchase buttons, and for more information.)