Editorial: Pointing the finger at appointments

It appears that “open and honest” government is a matter of perspective…and changes when you win an election.

When Republican councilor Tom Lombardi challenged the majority party’s process for appointing the Town Attorney at the Dec. 11 meeting, council chair Chris Palmieri shot him down quickly. The appointment procedure, which Palmieri campaigned against when he was a minority councilor, no longer seems to be a problem now that he’s in the majority.

“I can go through my point, point-by-point, again, and delineate the difference between a Town Manager and a Town Attorney, which I’ve already done,” Palmieri said at the Dec. 11 meeting. Then, he called Lombardi “disingenuous” for bringing up the process now that he’s in the minority.

When we echoed Lombardi’s protests in the Dec. 15 edition, Democrats took to their computers.

First, Palmieri penned an op-ed statement which pointed out the difference between the jobs as they are outlined in the charter. Then, he pointed out—once again—that there were only three Town Manager appointments but 11 Town Attorneys since the 1980s.

This week, the chair of the Democratic Town Committee followed up the op-ed with a letter to the editor, blaming Republicans for “scoring a few political shots” and saying that citizens are getting tired of the “dramatic theater.”

We feel this is hypocritical, considering that Democrats made this a central point in the most recent town election. It was the very argument that earned them control of the most powerful town board and the seat of power.

Palmieri—once a minority member and vocal opponent to the appointment process—is now splitting hairs when it comes to his party’s appointment of the Town Attorney. At the meeting and in his op-ed, he said that the attorney position is an ‘appointment’ rather than a ‘hiring’ of a manager.

Is it? We don’t think so.

Nobody—neither Lombardi nor us—has questioned the fact that the job descriptions are different. Lombardi was talking about the process of ‘appointing’ the different jobs, and so were we. Palmieri countered that one position is hired and the other is appointed. But the charter makes no distinction.

Section 401 of the charter—when talking about the ‘hiring’ of the town manager—reads, “The Town Manager, hereinafter referred to as ‘the Manager,’ shall be appointed by the Council.”

Section 902 of the charter—when talking about the ‘appointment’ of a town attorney—reads, “The Town Attorney shall be appointed by resolution of the Council and shall serve for the term of the Council appointing him.”

The charter uses the same word—appointed—for the process of selecting both positions. The charter makes a distinction between the jobs…but not the appointing process.

Contrary to the council chair, we feel that a discussion ought to always take place when the majority and minority disagree about the meaning of the town charter or a process in government. Just because it’s always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean it can’t be changed.

When two sides disagree about the interpretation of the charter, we feel that both sides ought to able to debate it and clarify the charter if it needs to be clarified—especially when a party campaigns about how they are going to change the way business is conducted in Southington’s government.

We think it’s disingenuous for a politician to campaign against a process when it doesn’t fit his needs but shut down discussion when the process does fit his needs.

We expected more from the last election.

Leave a Reply