MERIDEN — Citing what they called a pattern of behavior, political leaders from both parties repeated calls Thursday for Democratic City Councilor Miguel Castro to step down over revelations that a video recording of a subcommittee meeting had been edited to remove what Castro considered an embarrassing exchange with the committee chairman.
Castro did not return a request for comment Thursday. He initially stated Wednesday he did not intend to resign, but later said he was undecided, apologizing for how he handled the situation.
During a budget presentation by Parks and Recreation Director Chris Bourdon at the March 29 City Council Finance Committee meeting, Chairman Brian Daniels asked councilors having a side discussion to be quiet. Castro took offense, stating “I will appreciate you don't mention my name. If it was me I will tell you.”
An edited version of the meeting video without the exchange was published to the city’s website April 2. City officials later learned that Castro had asked the city’s video production contractor about editing out the exchange. Castro said Wednesday he did not claim to have authorization to request that the video be edited but merely “posed a question” to the production contractor.
Other officials say Castro made it appear he did have authorization. In a joint statement Wednesday, council Democratic Majority Leader David Lowell and Democratic Town Chairwoman Millie Torres-Ferguson asked for Castro to consider resignation, calling his actions an “abuse of power.”
Torres-Ferguson said Castro was previously asked to step down as deputy majority leader in January after an incident came to light involving the citywide neighborhood association. Castro texted President Holly Wills claiming that “members and colleagues” of the James H. Napier Foundation were concerned about funding because his former political opponent, Republican Beth Bryan, was president of the Westsiders neighborbood association. Castro said at the time that he stepped down as deputy majority leader due to family obligations.
”This isn’t the first time that Miguel has used his position on the City Council to coerce people into doing things,” Torres-Ferguson said. “This isn’t a lapse in judgment, it’s an abuse of power… when you are in an elected position like this public trust is everything and when you lose that everything else almost doesn't matter.”
For Mayor Kevin Scarpati, that trust may never be restored.
“My trust in councilor Castro is gone and in order for me to do my job effectively as mayor and for a city councilor to do their job, we need to be able to communicate and trust one another that this is in the best interest of the city and what Miguel has done on numerous occasions has been in the best interest for Miguel, not the best interest for Meriden,” Scarpati said.
While Councilor Bruce Fontanella said he has never personally questioned Castro’s integrity, Castro’s continued participation in city government could be problematic.
“He would have a lack of credibility in his position and his opinions that I think would make his input relatively ineffective,” Fontanella said. “Whether he resigns is his decision, but I think that resigning is certainly one answer to this whole mess that’s been created.”
Republican Minority Leader Dan Brunet said issues involving Castro date back to 2015, when Castro appointed himself to a statewide immigration task force without being named to the position by former Mayor Manny Santos.
”It’s an accumulation of a series of events,” Brunet said. “It justifies him being asked to resign. I think he should. At this point, he’s gone too far down a path I don’t think he can come back from.”
No mechanism exists to remove an elected official from power in the City Charter, said Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn. In the event Castro chooses to resign, the Democratic party would appoint a successor to serve until the next election in 2019.
Castro is expected to notify party leaders if he will remain on the Council this afternoon, Lowell said.
“I haven't thought about what the next moves are,” Lowell said. “Given the number of issues that have transpired, I do personally believe it’s in Miguel’s best interest to consider resigning.”
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