SOUTHINGTON - Some members of the Town Council are accusing others of having a âbackroom meetingâ 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.
âWhat they are saying is not accurate,â he said. âWe 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.
âWe 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.
âAfter 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.â
âThis was beyond poor in my opinion - the selection of the town manager is one of the most important decisions a council can make,â said Palmieri. âTo 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.â
âThis is the type of thing that gives fuel to the tin foil hats,â said Pocock. âIt is not good for Mark or the town. If we donât 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 âgood ole boys,â and now it is back to business as usual.â
âThey probably could have still got what they wanted if this had been done the proper way,â Pocock continued. âIf 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.â
Councilor John Barry said he was upset by the âdisrespectâ shown to him and other members of the council. He said he is in favor of an open and transparent process because âin America if you want a job you have to apply, there is also an interview, and it is a competitive process.â
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.