ELLINGTON, CT (WFSB) - The town of Ellington is still reeling from the arrest of the vice president of their volunteer ambulance corps.
Many are angry after learning town leaders were aware of complaints made months before Simon Hessler's arrest on underage sex trafficking allegations.
On Wednesday night, the first select woman met with residents face to face.
Residents got a timeline from town officials of what they knew, when they knew it and what they did about it.
Many residents, in hindsight, wish their officials did more.
“I felt like this was one of those defining moments where if you heard something that skeeved you out, and if you act or didn’t act, something major could have happened,” said Jamie Foster.
Jamie Foster was one of two whistle blowers who brought the social media interactions of Hessler to the attention of officials months before he was arrested on more than a dozen charges stemming from child sex trafficking.
“I found it concerning and I didn’t know what to do,” said Foster.
Both whistle blowers got concerned after they say Hessler was chatting with a homeless woman and allegedly tried to barter a room at the Manchester hotel he owned for something other than work.
Foster went to state police, the school superintendent, and First Selectwoman Lori Spielman.
“I did everything I could in passing it along to the sergeant,” said Spielman.
Spielman says police later told it “didn’t have teeth.”
“It’s very hard to prove anything on Facebook,” Spielman said.
The ambulance corps is run separately from the town and Hessler’s boss there, Peter Hany, also saw the posts, but told the dozens tonight, he brushed it off because in a later post, Hessler clarified he wasn’t trying to barter for sex.
Hany took him at his word.
“I can’t base anything on perceptions. I have to have facts. I’m running an organization that if I was going to base anything on perceptions, I would lose the respect of people, the ambulance corps and the town,” said Hany.
While state police found Hessler’s alleged interactions did not cross a criminal line, some residents here say a moral line was crossed and wish the selectwoman and the ambulance corps had the power to do more.
“It’s really important to look back and say, were there things that could have been done differently, are there policies that need to be changed,” said Sarah Gaer.
Both the selectwoman and the ambulance corps are starting to research.
“Maybe we could go further in our checks. That has to be discussed with our first selectwoman and the three emergency departments,” Hany said.
One person also pointed out there was a lot of opportunity for self-reflection tonight.
It appears Hessler’s alleged Facebook interaction was seen by hundreds of people online and resulted in two official complaints.