A View from Glen Hill: Heartening choices

Our main firehouse’s grounds contain a plaque and garden commemorating the six Wiltonians lost on 9/11, and our town’s annual observance of that horrendous day numbers among its participants Wilton’s own who answered the call in the grimmest of circumstances.
This year’s observance included a moving personal account by Sandy Mumbach, whose two firefighter sons were at ground zero by 1 p.m.  She “remember[ed] them telling me of the eeriness of passing all of the ambulances on the West Side, lined up to transport the survivors who never appeared. I remember later hearing from my niece of running to get away, covered in ash. I remember hearing of the extraordinary kindnesses that occurred everywhere.”
Among those gathered for Wilton’s 9/11 observance this year were those on both sides of what have become major town issues. But the Sturm und Drang of those matters were set aside as everyone greeted each other with warmth and sadness. That is surely one of our town’s great strengths: even as we may differ dramatically on specific issues, we also understand the importance of affirming the vigor of our life in community.
The choices presented for our local electoral consideration this November are very heartening and, given the strength of the candidates across the board, represent a win for our town no matter who the individual victors may be. It is also heartening to see fresh younger faces entering the arena. One such new arrival on the local political scene is David Clune. The bearer of an illustrious name in town, the younger David is running for a selectman’s seat as an independent.
I know David as an outstanding lawyer who serves in the compliance section of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The Fed’s regulatory oversight has been significantly increased in recent years, and David’s work is in the thick of that regulatory mission. Earlier, David served in the Manhattan D.A.’s office and then with a private law firm. It was in that law firm setting that I turned to David seven years ago for help on a very troublesome pro bono case. He willingly stepped in even though his doing of this work offered no career enhancement and in fact only took time away from the daunting task of developing and maintaining a private practice.
The case in question evolved from an attack by a group of a half-dozen girls on another girl not in their clique (and most likely jealous of the victim’s academic success) in a public high school in Fairfield County, not Wilton High School. The girl attacked was in her junior year and doing very well academically. Her parents were both Haitian immigrants who were struggling in multiple jobs to provide for their family. Two of the six girls wrestled their victim to the ground in a school corridor and punched her repeatedly while the others stood around yelling taunts and kicking her viciously. With her hands held back, the victim used her teeth to bite into the cheek of one of the two assailants who had her pinned to the ground. An assistant principal finally happened on the scene and broke it up, hauling everyone off to the principal’s office. The victim received a suspension along with the others and was also told that she faced expulsion based on the bite.
I represented the victim in proceedings before school authorities; the suspension was lifted and the threat of expulsion removed based on the argument that punishing the victim goes against everything the school’s anti-bullying policy advocates and sends a horrible message to both bullies and victims. The state’s attorneys office, on the other hand, refused to relent in its stated intention to prosecute the victim criminally for the biting.
I was out of my element on that criminal front and turned to my then neighbor across the way on Drum Hill Road, David. Connecticut prosecutors are notoriously difficult to dissuade from pursuing prosecutions, yet David in his calm yet forceful way eventually carried the day with them so that all charges against her wound up being dropped. She went on to college, where she has done very well.
I saw in this process a person of great legal skill and true heart who faithfully answered the call for help. It is good to see people like David entering the political arena, and whatever the outcome of his race, I hope he will remain active on the local political scene. We will all be the better for it.