Danbury’s longtime chief financial officer is on paid leave

DANBURY — The City finance director who oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in operating funds, capital loans, pension plans and utility funds is on paid leave as talks progress toward a separation agreement.

The news that David St. Hilaire is no longer working as the city’s chief financial officer at a time of rising inflation, a recession is loomingand the city has borrowed $208 million building much-needed classrooms was kept secret for five weeks by the town hall.

On Tuesday, Mayor Dean Esposito did not respond to a request for comment on St. Hilaire, a 15-year veteran of City Hall who was Danbury’s second highest paid employee in 2019 at $178,000.

A Hartford lawyer whom Danbury hired to negotiate the separation agreement with St. Hilaire also declined to comment.

“It’s a personnel issue,” attorney Johanna Zelman said.

Paul Rotello, the Democratic majority leader on the city council, said it was not unusual for Danbury to hire specialists to help negotiate labor disputes.

“That doesn’t usually happen with a department head,” Rotello said Tuesday. “And it’s usually handled in a quick manner.”

Rotello, who declined to discuss details of St. Hilaire’s paid time off, said the finance department is in good hands under Daniel Garrick, deputy chief financial officer and risk manager.

“The deputy is doing a great job,” Rotello said. “Dan has been with the city as long as David and knows everything David knows.”

Meanwhile, Saint-Hilaire is still listed as the Finance director on the city’s website, even though he hasn’t been to work for at least five weeks.

Reached Tuesday by Hearst Connecticut Media, St. Hilaire declined to comment.

Rotello said the city’s hands were tied when it came to what it could say publicly.

“There is no point in talking about anything until the investigation is complete, and we would like the investigation to be completed,” Rotello said. “We believe the investigation is dragging on.”

News that St. Hilaire has been furloughed follows a busy season at the city’s finance department, which was preparing Danbury’s $277 million budget just as city hall was shift gears on his ambitious plan to catch up with the proliferation of school enrolments.

City Hall’s surprise decision in March to build a career academy for 1,400 high school students at a different location from a plan that had been on the books for years radically changed the highly anticipated projectrequiring a new master plan and new funding.

St. Hilaire’s job also involves managing Danbury’s $200 million capital improvement program, $360 million pension plan, $100 million deferred compensation plan and of its $25 million water and sewer utility fund.

“It’s a very important department head position,” Rotello said.

Rotello added that the city credit scores are “excellent”.

“The city’s finances are in excellent shape,” Rotello said. “It didn’t affect the city’s money.”

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