2 Democratic councilors accuse Southington GOP bloc of holding 'backroom meeting'

Published on Friday, 4 August 2017 21:34


SOUTHINGTON - Some members of the Town Council are accusing others of having a “backroom meeting” to get the five votes needed to appoint Deputy Town Manager Mark Sciota as the next town manager. Those involved deny the allegation and say it was merely a straw poll to see who they favor.

Democratic Councilor Chris Palmieri and Republican Councilor Ed Pocock III have accused Republican Councilors Mike Riccio, Tom Lombardi, Paul Champagne and Victoria Triano of meeting in secret and calling Democratic Councilor Dawn Miceli to get her support to form a five-vote majority.

Palmieri and Pocock say that they, along with Councilors John Barry and Cheryl Lounsbury, were excluded from the conversation because they favor an open search process.

Champagne denied that any sort of secret meeting took place.

“What they are saying is not accurate,” he said. “We had a Republican Town Committee meeting that morning to discuss campaign strategy and neither Ed Pocock nor Cheryl Lounsbury are running for council this year. During the meeting, the proposed Columbus statue was brought up, so Dawn was called about that because she is a member of UNICO.

“We also discussed what we thought about Mark, but we were not called on to decide who to pick. I said that Mark was a viable candidate.

“After that meeting I had a seven- to eight-minute conversation with Ed Pocock. What this comes down to is a personality clash between two strong and opinionated people (Riccio and Pocock). This issue will still be decided by the Town Council in an open discussion. We conducted a straw poll last year, and Mark would have been appointed then if Garry had left.”

“This was beyond poor in my opinion - the selection of the town manager is one of the most important decisions a council can make,” said Palmieri. “To do it in isolation, not as a full body, is completely wrong. They planned this whole thing out because they do not want to have a process. I voted for Mark Sciota the last time we had a process, but that was open and not behind closed doors. It is upsetting that they chose not only to exclude the public but also fellow councilors.”

“This is the type of thing that gives fuel to the tin foil hats,” said Pocock. “It is not good for Mark or the town. If we don’t cast a net for candidates, we will never find the next Garry Brumback. They are letting personal opinion cloud their judgment, and it will set Southington back decades. We were just starting to shed the image of only hiring ‘good ole boys,’ and now it is back to business as usual.”

“They probably could have still got what they wanted if this had been done the proper way,” Pocock continued. “If we had lost the debate to have an open search then I would have moved forward on hiring Mark Sciota. At least then it would have been transparent.”

Councilor John Barry said he was upset by the “disrespect” shown to him and other members of the council. He said he is in favor of an open and transparent process because “in America if you want a job you have to apply, there is also an interview, and it is a competitive process.”

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or bjohnson@bristolpress.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, New Britain, Southington Herald on Friday, 4 August 2017 21:34. Updated: Friday, 4 August 2017 21:36.