With its members elected in November, Wallingford’s Town Council almost immediately got off to a shaky start this year. After Democrat Gina Morgenstein resigned, the Democratic Town Committee wanted the next highest vote getter to fill the spot. But Republicans, holding the majority, didn’t see it that way and appointed instead Jason Zandri, a Democrat who’d had a falling out with his own party.
To some observers, this action violated protocol, or at least the spirit of accommodation granted from one political party to another, but nothing could be done to stop it.
And any hope that this would be a one-time stray from cordiality soon evaporated when earlier this month council Republicans singled out for rejection Ed Storck’s nomination to be an alternate on the Zoning Board of Appeals. His activity on social media was cited as a reason.
During the meeting in which he was rejected, Storck held up printouts of social media posts shared by the ZBA’s vice chairman. Those posts, shared by Raymond Rys, who is also a former Wallingford town councilor, are vulgar and, some would say, inappropriate for someone serving on a government body.
Yet the Republican-dominated council just the other day approved, in a party line vote, reappointing Rys.
You could call the council’s action exercising a double standard, but it’s also standards themselves that have become suspect.
“I know Ray to be very dedicated to our community, having served up here on the Town Council, serving at his church, serving a number of our local veteran organizations as a veteran himself,” said Sam Carmody, a council Democrat. “So that makes tonight somewhat difficult for me,” said Carmody, who voted against the appointment of Rys.
“I really don’t understand what happened to Mr. Storck, I really don’t understand what’s happening to Mr. Rys,” said Joseph Marrone III, the lone Republican councilor to have voted for Storck’s appointment, “and I hope that we can as a community come to the understanding that free speech is free speech. So if you don’t like what someone has to say, you can tell them, but I don’t know that you have to go and get them in front of a public meeting.”
Wallingford residents, and voters, have a right to expect at least some degree of fairness in the way the council goes about its business; or, absent that, at least some explanation of why fairness was not possible. Yet there hasn’t been much of either in these situations, and it’s becoming clear that Republicans intend to exercise their will regardless of their Democratic colleagues’ interests, or to spite those interests.
Voters get to decide whether this approach ought to continue, but there’s a long way to go before that can take place. This council is just getting started.
That also leaves time for a renewed effort toward cordial relations, to re-examine how nominees are being treated, and hopefully for the well-being and interests of the community to somehow come to the fore in this council’s deliberations.