SOUTHINGTON — Former town councilors, including a past chairman, and all the Republicans on the Board of Education resigned from the Republican Town Committee Friday as a protest against party leadership’s “exclusion from the committee of long-standing public servants.”
Some Republicans objected to a slate of town committee members approved overwhelmingly at a recent party meeting. Town GOP leaders, such as party chairman Steve Kalkowski, said new members were brought into the party and members who hadn’t been active weren’t re-nominated.
In a letter sent Thursday, Board of Education chairman Brian Goralski, board members Colleen Clark, Terri Carmody, Joseph Baczewski and Patricia Queen, former Town Council chairman Edward Pocock III, former councilor Paul Champagne and former school board member Juanita Champagne announced their resignation.
“Our resignation is the result of our ongoing displeasure with the direction and tone of this committee, as well as the recent exclusion from the committee of long-standing public servants in our town,” the letter said. “We value differing views and opinions along with open and respectful communications. The actions and behaviors of the committee do not reflect our interest as we serve the Southington community in our current, former or future roles.”
Earlier this week, Republican Town Committee Chairman Steve Kalkowski said 23 of the 75 slots were filled with newcomers. Party members were chosen based on their participation in party events, presence at town committee meetings and support of elected officials.
Members of the town committee vote on the party’s slate of nominees for local elections, and being a member is often seen as a positive when weighing potential candidates.
"We want folks that are really active participants in our meetings and events," Kalkowski said. "I want 75 people who bring their ideas and recommendations."
The town committee slate presented by party leadership and approved by about 50 Republicans at a caucus this week didn’t include former committee members Cheryl Lounsbury, a former councilor, Ed Pocock Jr., a Board of Finance member, and Erika Pocock, a Board of Water Commissioners member.
Ed Pocock Jr. said he was "having his hand slapped" for not voting in favor of a $25,000 appropriation to hire a search consultant for the fire department.
Ed Pocock III, who was renominated to the committee Monday, said party leaders wanted to get rid of Republicans who expressed different views. He said his reelection to the committee when his father and daughter were removed was a “cruel joke.”
The resignations follow conflict in the Republican party that became apparent in the last council term. Ed Pocock III and Lounsbury had several public and heated disagreements with former council chairman Michael Riccio, former party chairman Brian Callahan, and their supporters.
Riccio and Kalkowski didn’t return calls for comment Friday.
Goralski said he joined the town committee 16 years ago.
“It’s always shared my interests in making the Southington community better,” he said.
Mondays’ meeting was the latest sign for Goralski that he no longer aligned with the party’s leadership. Goralski was the lone vote against the slate Monday night, but since then he said he’s gotten support from other Republicans.
“I don’t want to be associated with the direction of that group,” he said Friday. “I don’t want to be a member of the good ol’ boys club or whatever they are.”
Carmody also had concerns about how the party leadership was conducting business.
“I was taken aback by the people that were left off of the SRTC, those that have been past chair people, who have put in I can’t tell you how much time and effort,” she said. “I was very, very put off by that and disappointed.”
Both Goralski and Carmody said they have no intention of leaving the party.
“That doesn’t mean I’m not a Republican, I’ll always be a Republican, but it doesn’t mean I have to be on the town committee,” Carmody said.