Survey subcommittee avoids conflict of interest

The Board of Finance’s survey subcommittee dodged a potential conflict of interest thanks to the subcommittee’s citizen volunteer, Wilton resident David Rothstein.

Formed by the Board of Finance in February, the subcommittee is tasked with creating and delivering a town-wide survey to find out how taxpayers would like their tax dollars to be spent.

Rothstein has volunteered to “do a lot of the hard work of the survey” with his firm, RTi Research, subcommittee member Richard Creeth told fellow Board of Finance members during their July 17 meeting.

The subcommittee has been “extremely pleased with Dave’s generosity,” said Creeth, and has asked for a $10,000 budget to cover the costs of things like mailshots and social media postings in order to drive survey participation.

Following the subcommittee’s meeting last month, Creeth said, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice identified a potential conflict of interest.

“Lynne spotted that Dave’s firm would potentially incur some out-of-pocket costs,” said Creeth, “and he [would have] to be reimbursed for those.”

Vanderslice’s concern was that a potential conflict of interest would arise if Rothstein were “getting paid by the town in any way, type or form,” Creeth explained.

Because it’s important that the subcommittee be “transparent,” Creeth said, he spoke to Rothstein about what the costs would be.

“He said, ‘I don’t think it’s anything other than hosting and it’s probably going to be about 30 cents a response — I’ll just pay for it, Richard. I won’t need to be reimbursed for anything,’” said Creeth.

“Dave’s generosity just went up a notch, which is even more appreciated [because] we don’t have to worry about the ethics — there will be no payment at all.”

“That is terrific news,” said Board of Finance Chair Jeff Rutishauser, adding that Rothstein has not only gone “above and beyond the call of duty,” but also got the board “out of a little bit of a pickle.”

“He helped out a lot and it’s much appreciated,” said Rutishauser.

In addition to Creeth and Rothstein, members of the subcommittee include:

  • Deborah McFadden, Board of Selectmen.

  • Debbie Low, Board of Education.

  • Sally Poundstone, Planning and Zoning Commission.

  • John Kelly, Economic Development Commission.

The subcommittee’s plan is to finalize the survey in August and start rolling it out to residents in September, said Creeth.