NEW BRITAIN – Democratic members of the Common Council are pushing to freeze all city funds to the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce until the termination or resignation of President Tim Stewart.
Democrats have put forward a petition for next week’s Common Council requesting the mayor reveal all city money, directly and/or indirectly, provided to the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce. They’ve also put forth a resolution to freeze all funds until the immediate termination or resignation of Stewart as chamber president.
Stewart, a former mayor, came under fire Wednesday after a screenshot of a Facebook comment posted by him was made public. In the comment, Stewart referred to female Democratic U.S. representatives wearing white during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address as “Bitches in heat.”
The former mayor has since apologized for the comments on his Facebook page and has resigned from the city’s School Building Committee and the Mattabassett District Commission at the request of his daughter, Mayor Erin Stewart.
Gennaro Bizzarro, chairman of the chamber’s board, told The Herald on Thursday that he has been checking schedules of board members and hopes to schedule a special meeting soon to discuss Tim Stewart’s future with the chamber.
The resolution on Wednesday’s agenda includes a freeze of all funding, including but not limited to, payment of professional services, support services, contract services, staffing, grants, bonding, sponsorships and reimbursements.
But Mayor Erin Stewart contends the resolution would achieve nothing. Years ago, after a reorganization of City Hall, the city’s Economic Development Director was moved to City Hall.
“The City of New Britain does not fund the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce,” the mayor said in a statement. “Under my leadership, the City’s Economic Development staff was moved back into City Hall several years ago to have autonomy from the Chamber. The two entities remain separated.”
While Democrats can pass the resolution with their nine-member caucus, the mayor could potentially veto the resolution. If she were to veto, Democrats would need a member of the Republican caucus to join them in a veto override vote.
The council’s Republican caucus issued a statement about the situation Friday afternoon.
“We commend Mayor Erin Stewart for asking for and receiving Tim Stewart’s resignation from 2 city commissions. It is unfortunate that council leadership hasn’t taken the time to explain to its new members that the Chamber is not funded by the City,” the statement reads. “Mayor Erin Stewart has worked hard to grow business relationships and promote transit oriented development, opportunity zone development and good business policy. This will continue to be the the focus of the administration and should be the focus of the council no matter what political affiliation a member has.”
As Democrats mentioned in their press conference Wednesday, this is not the first time Stewart has been in hot water for his Facebook comments. In November 2017, the former mayor was criticized for commenting, “the inmates are running the neighborhood,” on a Facebook post referring to residents of the North and Oak streets area.
Next week’s Common Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, City Hall, 27 West Main St.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by firstname.lastname@example.org.