SOUTHINGTON — Town Council Republicans picked a former assistant town attorney to become Town Attorney after receiving resumes from local lawyers.
Jeremy Taylor, a Republican, was approved in a party-line vote earlier this week.
While council chairwoman Victoria Triano could have picked a town attorney without a council vote, she introduced a new process of receiving applications from lawyers interested in the part-time position. Triano, a Republican, said she got five applications and was impressed by them all.
“All very competent, all very well qualified,” she said. “The candidate that we are choosing is by far the one who is the best fit.”
Councilors divided over appointment
The six council Republicans voted in favor of Taylor’s appointment during Monday’s meeting. The three council Democrats opposed the appointment.
Chris Palmieri, a Democratic councilor and former chairman, said the appointment was “a political appointment under the guise of it being a formal process.” He complained that there were no interviews and no criteria for determining the best person for the job.
“I do not feel it was a fair and open process,” Palmieri said. “I do not believe he was the most qualified candidate.”
Palmieri preferred another attorney he felt was more qualified. He didn’t divulge the name but said the person was appointed assistant town attorney by a previous Democratic-majority council. Triano also didn’t release names of those who had applied for the position this year.
Two years ago as chairman, Palmieri appointed Carolyn Futtner to the position. Futtner, a local attorney, had run unsuccessfully for council as a Democrat.
“I do appreciate that the chairwoman took this up and did accept resumes from the public,” said Tom Lombardi, Republican vice chairman. “I’m astonished that councilman Palmieri is opposed to this process when in 2017 there was absolutely no process and it was a political gift to someone who ran for council.”
Triano said political affiliation was irrelevant to the selection.
“There were no places for references for who was a Republican or who was a Democrat,” she said. “Not one word was said about it at selection time.”
Had it been a transparent political appointment, Palmieri said he and other Democrats would have supported Taylor.
New process for picking a town attorney
After becoming council chairwoman, Triano formed a committee to review applications consisting of herself, Republican councilor and attorney William Dziedzic, Democrat and attorney Val DePaolo and Town Manager Mark Sciota.
DePaolo recused herself from the committee since two of her law firm partners were interested in the position. Her place on the committee was taken by Palmieri.
Triano questioned why she then voted against Taylor during Monday’s council vote if she had partners interested in the job.
DePaolo felt the vote was allowed since it was on Taylor rather than one of her partners.
“If it was one of my partners, I would have recused myself from the vote,” she said.
Despite DePaolo’s concerns about the process, she spoke highly of Taylor.
“He’s a good attorney. He’ll make every effort to do a good job as town attorney,” she said.
Taylor has an office in Plantsville where he practices civil litigation, land use and zoning law and estate planning.
He was appointed assistant town attorney in 2015 when Mark Sciota was transitioning from town attorney to town manager. Taylor had the role of interim town attorney for a short time during the transition.
Republicans had a majority on the council in 2015. Taylor served briefly on the Zoning Board of Appeals but resigned in 2015 to take the assistant town attorney position.
He’s a lifetime Southington resident and said he’s “fully invested” in the town. Having already worked with most of the council members, Taylor said he’s excited to start in the role of town attorney.
“I feel like I can work with everybody. My position is to work with the Town Council as a whole,” he said.