Twenty-seven democrats came out to support Tim Cantafio for a Board of Finance alternate seat, but were disappointed and angered when the Town Council filled the seats with a republican and an unaffiliated voter.
That gives the finance panel four republicans and two democrats, and two republican and an unaffiliated alternate. The alternates vote when other voting members are not present. The new members are Vincent DeGennaro, unaffiliated, and republican Susan LaFrance. The third alternate is republican Cindy Penkoff.
Traditionally, the three alternate seats are filled by a republican, democrat and unaffiliate.
Aware that attempts to get Cantafio appointed would probably fail because of the council's republican majority, democrats still praised him for attending the appointment hearing at the Town Council meeting Monday night.
They applauded him outside of the Council Chamber in .
Before the decision, several Town Council members, including republican David Pia, asked for a bipartisan mindset.
He acknowledged that Susan LaFrance could "do a great job" on the board.
But, he added, "The democrats have put up their candidates for a democrat seat. How do we feel when the tables are turned? At some point we have to put partisan politics aside."
Democratic Town Councilman John DelVecchio Jr. cited the Board of Education as an example of a board that benefits from minority representation.
"I think we should take a cue from the Board of Education," he said.
DelVecchio added that he has been part of the minority and the majority, and power always switches sides at some point. He asked for his colleagues to think hard about their vote.
A War of Words
The dispute began when First Selectman Tim Herbst and Trumbull Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo exchanged letters regarding numerous nominating democrats for different boards and commissions, a practice done for many years, the chairwoman said.
However, only the Council has the power to make certain appointments, after candidates are vetted in the Rules & Research Committee. Candidates are nominated and their names are forwarded to the council for review.
Republican Council member Chadwick Ciocci said the Town Council R & R committee had not interviewed several of the candidates because their names had not been submitted.
He denied accusations of partisanship, saying that unaffiliated voters, who make up 50 percent of the voting population, are underrepresented.
Seats should be filled based on qualifications, not party, he added. "This is not a democrat seat. This is not a republican seat. This is a people seat. By every objective standard, Mr. DeGennaro is most qualified."
Democratic Town Councilwoman Vicki Tesoro replied, "Why not give up your republican seat then?"
Herbst has laid out his reasons for opposing the democratic candidates, ranging from disagreement with their attitudes to past actions or statements.
Among those democrats not nominated but disputed were former First Selectman Ray Baldwin Jr., a former U.S. Marine and a retired Trumbull police officer, for the Police Commission; and Kathleen McGannon and Lisa Valenti, for the Board of Finance. Both women once served on the commission.
All the council republicans but Pia voted for DeGennaro and LaFrance.
"They rubberstamp anything [Herbst] says," DiNardo said of the republicans.