Southington’s department heads lined the wall at the Sept. 11 council meeting to show support for Mark Sciota as their next leader. The outgoing Town Manager threw every ounce of his support behind the town’s first Deputy Manager. There was no opposition. Then, the childish bickering about the process began from our councilors, as they argued everything but left us with no solution to a flawed process that seemed to ignite everyone over the past month. Now, with a Deputy Manager and Town Attorney vacancy to fill, we dread the next chapter and fear the precedent set by this job search.
The good news is that—when Sciota was voted as manager in a 5-4 decision—at least they got it right. Sciota has proven himself many times over. Of course, we are getting sick and tired of a Town Council that—even when they get it right—produces conflict every time they hold a meeting.
From our perspective, the council should have laid out goals and objectives for a discussion about hiring high level positions since we have time before Garry Brumback leaves town. It should have been a goal to debate whether the town should conduct national, regional, state-wide, or in-house searches (followed by a vote to settle the debate). There should have been a bipartisan hiring process hammered out (with another vote). They should have created a description for an interim, if needed, along with a process for selection and extension time frames in case a future council has a sudden vacancy thrust upon them because of a firing, a death, or any other reason (with a vote). It’s clear the town needs a process. Why move so quickly? Your guess is as good as ours.
It left us wishing they would have talked on the record to create a town process for future, high level job searches (like Deputy Manager or Town Attorney). We wish they would have officially announced Garry Brumback’s retirement in a meeting instead of leaking it to the press, so residents could have turned out to thank him on the record if they wished. Their discussion would have been better for the town than the knee jerk reactions we’ve come to expect. Councilors appear to care more about getting their way than getting it right and more about themselves than residents and town employees.
Instead of the immature bickering and backdoor deals, the council could have left us with a solid set of guidelines, so that future leaders wouldn’t have to face the same challenges. Then, after ALL of these problems were ironed out, they could have decided that—in this particular hiring process with a perfect candidate and no other qualified person—the process could be waived (with a vote) and Sciota could have been promoted. Are these reasonable expectations for a Council that works together for the town’s best interests? We think so.
The way this council conducts business is one of the central questions for voters this fall. Do residents want change or business as usual? We think Southington deserves more than a government that acts like the boy at the dike, plugging fingers into leaks instead of fixing the dam.
So we are going to give them yet another chance to speak to voters about their views on the Town Manager process, the role of government, and the biggest challenges they see for the next Town Council. This week, we sent questionnaires to the candidates for the Town Council, along with candidates for the Board of Education, the Board of Finance, and the Planning and Zoning Commission. We asked pointed questions, so that they can tell voters in their own words and from their own perspective: why they should be elected; how they would conduct themselves if elected; and how they could represent the “The City of Progress” if given a chance.
Then, we’ll try to hold them to it.