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Trumbull Councilman Defends Pension Vote

by John Rotondo

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.

John Rotondo

Town Council, D-3

John Rotondo August 13, 2011 at 12:42 AM
Hi Bill, Just because others decided to vote without all the info doesn't mean everyone has to. A good leader recognizes when additonal information is needed and her vote to abstain is simply a sign that if she were in charge of the Town she would have not forced this issue and moved to get additonal info. However, in the current situation, being in the minority, we could not stop it or table it, so the best thing is to avoid voting on an issue that is incomplete. That's how I see it anyway. Hope this helps. John Rotondo
John Rotondo August 13, 2011 at 12:49 AM
Hi Michael, What are you experiecing is called "True Freedom of Democracy". I can' tell you why my fellow Dems decided to vote for or against it. All I can tell you is, we are never forced to vote for the party line vote in caucus. We discuss the issues and get a sense for how we may vote or not, but the final decision is always made individually on the floor. In Caucus, I was going to vote for it until Mr. Altieri re-iterated his concerns on the floor and I felt that there were too many open questions (in my mind) to vote for this, however I did not want to vote against it either becaue I agree with it in concept. I just wanted to see all the qestions vetted before voting up or down. So yes we communicate with each other, but sometimes, discussions on the floor can cause one to change their mind (and hence their vote). That's the beauty of America! Hope this helps. John Rotondo
John Rotondo August 13, 2011 at 01:01 AM
Hi Cindy, Its okay to disagree with me, I don't hold grudges :-). Anyway, like I mentioned in another posting, abstention can be misleading. One can argue, that they mean one wants to avoid voting and the other side of the coin is that one didn't want to vote Yes or No because they agree in principle but yet, need more info. The latter is what happened in this case as we all heard about the unanswered questions that Councilman Altieri raised. Now, your second question is going to be, then why didn't we make the motion to table it. The answer is, we knew there was no appetite to do that as no-one really had any questions or concerns. Should we have made the motion, sure we could have and when it failed, everyone still would have said that we abstained. Putting politics aside, the real questions are: 1)why were these concerns not captured in the meeting minutes and 2) why was this not tabled at the Committee meeting - where the research is suppose to be done? Hope this helps. John
Bill Holden August 13, 2011 at 02:26 AM
Tim Herbst was a voting member of P&Z from Dec. 1999 to Dec 2009. Additionally he was an alternate member of P&Z for about a year +/-. That's 11 years. Mary Beth Thornton was first elected to the Council in 2003, almost eight years ago. Eleven years is more than almost eight years.
George August 13, 2011 at 02:47 AM
He was also the chair for a period of time. In his capacity as a voting member or chair, what efforts did he make to loosen up regulations and promote business expaning and encourage new business. I am also more interested in life experience making a candidate qualified. If he held a political position for more than 1/3 of his life and in general has limited life/family/homeowner/career experiences, it gives me the uncomfortable impression that he is the ultimate "career politician."

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