Just days after a report by Channel 3 Eyewitness News I-Team Reporter Eric Parker, the New Fairfield Parks and Recreation Department and the Connecticut State Police have launched an investigation into allegations that a town employee stole money.
Former Parks and Recreation assistant director Barbara Coelho stole money from the town of New Fairfield. Coelho admitted as much in a confidential settlement agreement in which she agreed to pay back $50,000.
The I-Team confirmed the money was repaid, but some in town said until the I-Team started digging, many details were kept quiet. They accused the town of a cover-up and said as soon as the theft was uncovered, police should have been called.
New Fairfield resident Doug Thielen said, "This cover-up deal, I hate it. I want to see it come to trial. Simple as that. If they decide to let people off, fine."
However, First Selectman John Hodge told the I-Team he was thrilled that he was able to reach the settlement and that the money is back in town coffers. He said his critics are just pushing political agenda.
Hodge said, "It's very easy for the Monday morning quarterbacks to say now, after the town has gotten a signed confession on our own, it's very easy to say we should have gone down one road towards a criminal prosecution. I don't know that was available to us as they suspect it was."
Much of the criticism comes from the fact that the town won't say how it reached the $50,000 figure and because Hodge declined to press criminal charges in the case.
Parker tried to ask Coelho, but she slammed the door to her home in his face and would not comment.
Days after the investigation aired, the I-Team confirmed state police launched a criminal investigation.
Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said, "We've initiated a criminal investigation. We'll examine all the facts and circumstances and ascertain if any violation of state law has taken place."
State police said detectives from the Major Crimes Squad have already begun to look into the theft and the resulting settlement. Hodge confirmed he had a lengthy conversation with troopers the day after the story aired and said an investigation is fine with him.
The three men who originally told the I-Team they didn't like the settlement deal have already forwarded documents to the state prosecutor's office.