There’s a saying that if we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them. Last week, we reported the wrong date for a public hearing (see the corrected notice below)
We apologize to anybody that made the trek to the municipal building on Tuesday. We have steps in place to avoid these sorts of mistakes in the future. (We also want to thank Rob Phillips, the director of planning and development, for approaching us as a true gentleman about our error).
We think that the Town Council would be well-served if they approached their mistakes in the same manner. They are humans. No reasonable person expects them to be perfect. Perfection is a direction, but we feel they lack direction.
We try not to criticize political opinions voiced by elected officials. Our journalists try to report their discussion accurately and without bias. Our editorials focus on process, government overreach, and abuses of power. We make no apologies if we find ourselves in conflict because of this, but after every conflict we review our part to see our mistakes, our successes, and the lessons we need to learn. We don’t claim perfection, but we do aim for it. This Town Council refuses to see their part in their mistakes, so they keep repeating them.
We looked at the most recent controversies and conflicts on the council: the Columbus statue at the municipal building, the hiring of the Town Manager, the hiring of the Town Attorney, and the passing of a resolution about Hartford Healthcare. We think all of these could have been avoided, or at the very least, lessons could have been learned from them.
The Columbus statue resulted from a group of councilors and town officials with personal conflicts of interest. Looking back, it is hard to figure out if they were representing their civic groups or speaking as Town Councilors when they were driving the conversation. Nobody stopped to consider the ethics code. Nobody disclosed their conflicts or abstained from the conversation as they should. Result: Controversy.
Both the Town Manager and Town Attorney conflicts happened because the minority party raised concerns about process that were squashed by the majority (different parties each time). They never stopped to ask the Town Attorney for clarification about the town charter, state and federal hiring laws, or town hiring practices before rushing into a decision. Result: controversy and conflict with the press.
The most recent decision to have private meetings with HHC, and the ensuing resolution, happened because they never formed a plan. They didn’t ask the Town Attorney for clarification about the charter, their authority on the issue, or rules to consider (like the Freedom of Information Act). Instead, they steamrolled a local business and taxpayer and conducted business off the record. Result: Controversy.
If the Town Council was a board of directors, and the Town Manager a CEO (like he’s described in the charter), no business would send individual board members descending upon a customer like a hive of bees. They’d send the CEO and have him report back (on the record). Yet, they did the opposite. So please, stop pointing fingers and look at your part.
We charge experienced councilors to slow down and do better. All these controversies stemmed from veteran members. We charge newer councilors to challenge the status quo. The council is composed of nine members, not two party hierarchies.
We ask officials, especially Town Managers and Town Attorneys, to have the courage to speak up. They have the most to lose—the council can actually fire them— but they have every right to participate. For our part, we promise to have their backs even if we disagree with their opinions.
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.