Looking Back: Nannygate, traffic battles

Does anyone remember Nannygate?

The scandal that derailed corporate lawyer Zoë Baird’s bid for United States attorney general made headlines in the Feb. 18, 1993, edition of The Ridgefield Press — a little less than a month after it was discovered that President Bill Clinton’s attorney general nominee had employed two illegal aliens from Peru as a nanny and chauffeur for her young child.

Local attorney Tom Belote, breathing a sigh of relief, spoke to The Press about his involvement.

“In an effort to salvage Ms. Baird’s nomination, President-elect Clinton’s transition team had said Mr. Belote told Ms. Baird’s husband, Paul Gerwitz, that hiring an undocumented alien was legal if they sponsored her for citizenship, and that they could not pay Social Security taxes — both untrue, according to Mr. Belote,” The Press said.

“I’m just happy it’s over,” Belote said of the scandal. “I did not appreciate the media blitz. I did not appreciate the misinformation … and I was uncomfortable being in a position where I could not respond to it.”    

The Press reported that Gerwitz had contacted Belote in April 1991 to perform two tasks: legalizing the Peruvian woman they had hired as a nanny in July 1990 — and by extension, her husband — with the Department of Labor, and filing an I-140 immigrant petition to put her on the waiting list for a green card.

Ordinarily, Mr. Belote said, Ms. Baird and Mr. Gerwitz would have gotten away with hiring undocumented aliens because the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) simply did not have enough staff to focus on cases that probably do not take jobs away from U.S. citizens, The Press reported. But this was not an ordinary situation.  

Baird, who was the first woman to be nominated for attorney general of the United States, withdrew her nomination after the media firestorm surrounding her failure to pay Social Security taxes for the workers — the so-called “nanny tax.”

50 years ago

In February 1968, Ridgefield’s first selectmen was in a battle with the state’s highway department to end traffic bottlenecks on Main Street and Danbury Road.

“Even the notorious ‘walk’ lights in the village center may go,” The Press reported in its Feb. 15 edition after a meeting between First Selectmen J. Mortimer Woodcock and state highway officials that took place in New Milford.

“Mr. Woodcock requested traffic lights for two intersections, one on Main Street at the post office shopping center, and the other on Route 35, Danbury Road, at the intersection of Farmingville and Copps Hill roads,” the newspaper said.

Little did Woodcock know, those traffic problems would persist well into the 21st Century. The lesson? Some battles — no matter how well fought — are never truly won.