Parties disagree over board appointments in Southington

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SOUTHINGTON — The Town Council’s Republican majority made appointments to boards and commissions Monday night while Democrats objected to having a reduced role in town government.

Republicans retained control of the Town Council in this month’s elections, giving Republican chairwoman Victoria Triano authority over appointments.

For the second municipal election in a row, the entire Republican slate won seats on town boards and commissions. That leaves Democrats with a minority on Town Council, Board of Finance, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Education.

State minority representation rules prevent Republicans from filling appointed positions with only party’s members but Triano said it doesn’t require them to appoint Democrats. During Monday’s meeting, Republicans appointed Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated residents to positions on the Parking Authority, library board, fire commission and other town groups.

Democrats tried to table some of the appointments, saying they needed more time to look into the details of minority representation laws. Those attempts to delay appointments failed, mostly in party-line votes.

Library building committee

Earlier this month, voters approved $17 million for a new library. Town leaders will appoint a building committee to oversee the work. It’ll be comprised mostly of volunteers with building or project management experience, Triano said, along with one member of the council, Republican Jim Morelli.

Other members of the committee haven’t been chosen yet. Democrats wanted a second council member from their party on the group.

“This is a huge project for our town. There were so many of us who worked so hard on this project,” said Chris Palmieri, a council Democrat.

Triano declined, saying the committee wouldn’t be aided by having more politicians. She also said the practice has been for the majority party to appoint one council liaison.

“My job is to get it in on time and under budget,” Triano said.

Michael Riccio, a Republican and former council chairman, said Monday that town leaders have worked to reduce political appointments on building committees and instead appoint those with knowledge of the trades.

Minority representation

Monday’s appointments included some Democrats, such as former councilor and Democrat Chris Poulos who Triano chose for the library board.

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Tony D’Angelo complained that Republicans were filling slots with unaffiliated people rather than giving his minority party representation. He said the Parking Authority will contain only Republicans and unaffiliated people.

“I would appreciate at least having some input instead of completely taking Democrats off boards and putting unaffiliated (people) on boards,” D’Angelo said during Monday’s meeting.

Democratic councilor Jack Perry asked that some appointments be tabled so that he and others could look into the legality of the appointments under state laws. Triano said she’d already discussed the issue with Town Attorney Alex Ricciardone.

During Monday’s meeting, Ricciardone said state statute only limits the number of seats a majority party can have on a board or commission but doesn’t specify that a minority party must be given seats.

“I feel comfortable moving on this thing right now,” Triano said Monday night.

Palmieri said when Democrats controlled the council, they appointed Republicans on the library board including former chairman Kevin Curtiss.

“We’re not even given a similar consideration with these appointments and it’s disappointing,” Palmieri said.

Triano said those appointments were the choice of Democratic leaders even though they chose to leave Republicans on the board.

Public works committees

Triano also announced council subcommittee appointments Monday night. While she’d chosen Palmieri for the public works subcommittee, Democrats asked that Perry join that group instead.

Perry is owner of HQ Dumpsters & Recycling, a local hauling company.

Triano denied their request, saying Perry’s contracts with the town and the Board of Education would mean he’d have to recuse himself from many matters before the subcommittee. On Monday night, Perry recused himself from a tax refund item before the council because of his relationship with some of the businesses involved.

“It would be so difficult for you to serve. You’d be voting on contracts and contractors that you've had personal relationships with,” Triano told Perry. “You’d be involved in working on public works projects that your company has with the town.”

Perry said he’d be willing to recuse himself when required. His experience with hauling, trucks and other related fields would be an asset to the subcommittee.

“That is just going to waste my skill sets,” he said.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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