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New London officials tight-lipped after man's death

By Colin A. Young

Publication: The Day

Published February 25. 2014 4:00AM
Taking legal advice, City Council panel tables public discussion of fatality at transfer station

New London - The City Council's public works committee on Monday chose to table a discussion about the death of a man at the city's transfer station last month at the recommendation of an attorney for the city's insurance provider and the city's attorney.

Floyd G. Smeeton, 59, of Borodell Place, died Jan. 30 while apparently dumping garbage into a hopper containing an automatic compactor. Police have said he likely had fallen into the machine, and they do not suspect foul play.

The committee had requested a copy of the police report of Smeeton's death, a copy of the public works department's protocols for operating the trash compactor and information about the training employees receive before operating the compactor. Committee members received none of the documents requested.

"I think it's important that the public recognizes and knows that there are elected officials who are concerned with what is transpiring here and are doing their best to find out what went wrong, if it has been corrected so that it won't happen again and Mr. Smeeton will not have died in vain," committee chairman Martin Olsen said.

The police report for the incident is not yet complete, city attorney Jeffrey Londregan said, and the state Department of Labor's Division of Occupational Safety and Health is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances surrounding Smeeton's death.

Londregan said that after speaking with an attorney from the city's insurance provider - Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency - he thought it would be best to refrain from discussing the incident in a public forum.

"CIRMA and the attorney suggest not speaking in public about these inquiries at this point in time until some reports and investigations are completed," Londregan said. "The concern from the attorney and CIRMA is having inquiries prematurely discussed, which obviously if they're done in a public forum become part of the public record, and there is some concern that something could impact the future defense of any lawsuit that could be commenced against the city as a result of this incident."

Londregan said no one has filed a notice of intent to sue or a lawsuit stemming from Smeeton's death. He said the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit is two years, but a notice of intent to sue must be filed within six months of the incident.

The committee members - Olsen, City Council President Wade Hyslop and City Councilor Michael Passero - voted unanimously to table discussion of the incident.

"I think that we probably are limited in our ability to look under the surface of what happened on that day at the transfer station for the time being," Passero said. "But I think we could probably reassure the city that all the facts will come out at the appropriate time."

c.young@theday.com

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