It’s funny that this has even come into question, because both parties have used abstentions numerous times throughout the years, including Jack Testani, Chairman of the Trumbull Republican Town Committee and myself, for that matter.
There’s nothing wrong with abstentions. In fact, it is one of three options every elected official has including Congress. There are times when there is not enough data, too much confusing data or just an uncomfortable feeling that everything has not been well thought-out. Those are times when abstentions make sense.
Getting to the situation that occurred Monday evening regarding the pension plans. I want to share the facts during that evening so it becomes clear as to what happened and allow you to be the judge.
Going into the Town Council meeting, after having reviewed the L&A committee meeting minutes, we all thought we had the latest facts and information regarding the plan, however during the T.C. meeting we learned that the L&A meeting minutes were conveniently missing key concerns that Councilman Altieri had raised in committee last week. This is strange, as common practice under Republican control has been to capture all verbal discussion during the meetings. Anyway, Councilman Altieri re-raised these two significant concerns on the floor: 1) The new plan might actually cost the town more money in the long run, and 2) It might not be legal to mandate that all non-union employees must sign-up for that plan (after-all we still are in America that last time I checked). It makes you wonder “how this even made it through the Republican controlled L&A committee meeting with these concerns?”. It should have been tabled there!
In any case, there didn’t seem to be any appetite to table it at the T.C. meeting either, it just seemed like the Republicans didn’t care and therefore the vote occurred. Being an engineer, I don’t like making decisions with critical information/data missing and felt these were important concerns that Councilman Altieri raised and didn’t feel comfortable voting either for it or against it, hence I abstained as did my fellow Councilman Mary Beth Thornton.
Mr. Testani stated that Mrs. Thornton could have asked the attorney a question. But that’s not true. The Town attorney was present, but the union negotiation attorney was not.
Furthermore, Mr. Testanti stated in his letter that “It is clear that the other members of the Town Council, from both parties, understand their obligations to the hard working people of Trumbull as they were prepared to cast a vote on Monday night.” How could he say they had been prepared when they all voted on a matter for which important questions that were raised both at a committee meeting and again on the floor by Councilman Altieri were still un-answered? I think it makes perfect sense to be prudent and not vote just for the sake of voting when important questions or issues like this are still open. This is the perfect place for an abstention, in my mind.
There is nothing wrong in abstaining or wanting to get more data or answers to very important key questions (especially ones that might not be constitutional). Mary Beth Thornton won’t vote just for the sake of voting, in fact she’ll make the tough decision, even if it’s not the popular thing to do. This is a strong character trait of hers and one that every first selectman should have.
Its just shameful that the TRTC is distorting the facts for political gain. But at the end of the day, I know Trumbullites are smart enough to see through this distortion and realize that Mary Beth Thornton and I abstained when we realized there was no appetite to table this topic. When the day comes that she is our new First Selectman we will all be happy that she has this wonderfully strong “Due Diligence” trait and the appetite to do what best for Trumbull even if it’s not the popular thing to do.
Town Council, D-3