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COVID-19: First Selectman Says Co-Workers' Complaints Led To New Canaan EMD's Ouster

Mike Handler
Mike Handler Photo Credit: Mike Handler Facebook

Complaints from co-workers regarding how they were treated led to his request for the resignation of the town's director of emergency management, New Canaan's First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said.

Moynihan requested the resignation of Mike Handler who has served as the Director of the Office of Emergency Management for the past nine years.

A popular figure with the public for his calm demeanor during storms, natural disasters, and for his daily COVID-19 updates, Moynihan said during a news conference on Thursday, June 4, that complaints from colleagues regarding Handler's treatment of them was one of the reasons for the request.

In a statement to the press, Moynihan said the complexity and duration of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the strain it put on the Health Department and the town was part of the reason for the request.

"In this health emergency, our medical advisers and health director are our most critical assets, and Mike’s role as EMD was to coordinate and communicate as the 'voice' of the EOC, but not as the ultimate decision-maker," he said.

The issue apparently came to a head over the number of testing days, which Handler reportedly wanted to increase, from the current three days a week. 

"The COVID testing plan we commenced two weeks ago caused great strain on our Health Department and other Town staff," the First Selectman said. 

He added that while all of the workings of the system may have seemed seamless to the community, problems inside led to his decision.

Moynihan did not elaborate further as to the reasons.

New Canaan's Fire Chief Jack Hennessey, who previously served as the deputy director of Emergency Management, will take over as the new director. 

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