The board of the region’s powerful garbage agency held an emergency meeting Monday to discuss a high-profile lawsuit that charges illegal lobbying and favoritism in the awarding of a consulting contract.
The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority held the meeting to discuss the strategy and defenses to the civil lawsuit, said board chairman Donald S. Stein.
“We have to take it seriously and put a defense together,’’ Stein said in a telephone interview. “We don’t believe the charges have merit.’’
Stein, who also serves as the first selectman of Barkhamsted, declined to comment in detail on the lawsuit by a consulting firm run by longtime Hartford Democratic strategist Matthew J. Hennessy, who was one of two bidders for a three-year consulting contract worth more than $250,000.
Hennessy was trying to unseat the incumbent consultant, Thomas D. Ritter of the law and lobbying firm of Brown Rudnick. Ritter’s firm has held the contract since 2006, and Hennessy charges in the suit that Ritter’s firm was the “predetermined’’ winner. Hennessy’s firm, which was never interviewed and was the high bidder, is seeking monetary and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, treble damages under the state’s anti-trust statutes, “an injunction prohibiting CRRA from utilizing outside lobbyists,’’ and a Superior Court judge’s ruling awarding him the contract.
Stein said he could say little about the board meeting, which was publicly posted to cover “trade secrets, personnel matters, pending RFP’s’’ and other issues.
“We met in executive session because of the pending litigation,’’ Stein said. “We working on our defense and strategy.’’
Hennessy charges that Ritter has been involved in illegal lobbying because emails show that he spoke to state officials and legislators about obtaining money from the State Bond Commission and on multiple appointments to the CRRA board. Ritter has repeatedly stated that he does not lobby, which is prohibited under state law for the quasi-public agency.
When asked if he has any views on whether Ritter is or isn’t lobbying for CRRA, Stein replied, “None.’’
But the minutes of a board meeting on December 22, 2011 in Hartford show that Stein voted “no” on whether to extend Ritter’s contract from January through the end of October in 2012.
Stein said it was “inappropriate’’ to comment on pending litigation and did not know if the case will ever go to trial.
“I don’t know how long it will go on,’’ Stein said. “I don’t know about settlement.’’
Canton first selectman Richard Barlow, the board’s recently elected vice chairman, could not be reached for comment Monday.