Editorial: Take a breath before a vote

There is still time before the Town Council’s Aug. 21 special meeting, so that means there is still time for cooler heads to prevail. We believe that it’s best to take a breath before a vote. Before councilors propose a vote to promote Deputy Town Manager Mark Sciota to fill the Town Manager vacancy, we hope that the council can have a thorough discussion about process, procedure, and what is best for the town in these sorts of job searches. After all, when is there ever going to be a better time to have this thoughtful discussion?

The truth is, Southington has not had to deal with this issue very often with only two town managers in five decades, so there’s never been much need for this discussion. Had it happened during the last job search, there probably wouldn’t have been this controversy where the biggest victim is Sciota, a respected town official that has served faithfully for years.

In these sorts of decisions, the charter should always be the first stop, but unfortunately it’s no help in this situation. Although it does spell out the qualifications and job duties for the Town Manager postion, there’s no mention about hiring. That’s not a big deal. We’ve talked to neighboring towns, and few see a need for a hiring process spelled out in a charter.

Both of Southington’s Town Managers were in attendance at the 2011 State of the town presentation when Garry Brumback, left, replaced the late John Weichsel, right.

So the next consideration should be the precedent. What have we done in the past? In this case, that’s little help, too. The time and expense associated with another national job search is probably not necessary—especially when we have at least one qualified applicant, a local resident who’s just a few steps from the office and already serving in the town hall.

But we still think that there has to be something between a national search and a blind promotion. We think that a discussion at this time is what’s best for the town. After all, the Town Council has the power to ensure that this sort of controversy never happens again, and the town has at least four months before the seat is vacant. We have an experienced council—many have insight because they were around for the last hiring. We would love to hear their varied opinions about a job search and what would be best for the town, the government, the people, and the next Town Manager.

We think that, at the very least, there should be an internal search. After all, there may be another department head that is interested in the job and has more managerial experience and more experience with budgets. The only way that anybody would know if someone else is interested in the position would be to post the job. The Town of Southington posts positions for typists, life guards, and lunch room workers and conducts job searches for department heads, police chiefs, and fire chiefs. Shouldn’t the town at least post this position and do an internal job search? We think so.

First, it would take away any notion that Southington is a “good old boys” network and would establish the town as an equal opportunity employer. Second, it would help protect the town from any charges that their hiring and promotion process is discriminatory, because a blind promotion does look discriminatory if it denies another qualified person his or her chance to apply. Third, it would help the town to identify loyal workers that have aspirations for promotions. Even if they don’t get the job, it would allow town officials to give feedback and direction to improve their chances for the next job opening. Finally, it would establish a reasonable precedent for the next job search, so that the next discussion does not have to erupt again into a finger pointing, childish tirade where town officials all look like quarreling toddlers.

After all, if Sciota does get the job, won’t we have to fill his positions? Or is that the agenda for the next special meeting?

To comment or send a letter to Observer editor John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@southingtonobserver.com.

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