SOUTHINGTON – The Town Council may form a diversity committee to look at local policies but councilors differed on who will form it.
Republican Councilor Victoria Triano proposed the idea of a group to address diversity in town government and in the community earlier this year. At the council meeting Monday, she said the group planned to meet in late April and will be comprised of community leaders and town residents.
Democratic Chairman Chris Palmieri was surprised at the announcement. On Tuesday, he said Town Manager Mark Sciota and town department heads hadn’t yet been notified.
“Forming committees is one of the responsibilities of the chair. I have not formed a committee yet,” Palmieri said. “I’m going to look into it more. As of right now, there is no committee of the council that was approved.”
Triano said she was upset Monday at the “feigned surprise”
“I was furious. We discussed it at least twice at length,” she said. “Nobody had a problem in January.”
She said the committee “is happening” and that the goal is to address the concerns of minority residents raised late last year. The committee, which she said includes Southington Women for Progress member Dorie Conlon Perugini and First Congregational Church pastor Ron Brown, will look at town policies and procedures to see if improvements can be made or if training is needed for town workers and police.
“I want to make sure they’re sensitive to that equity issue,” Triano said.
She also wanted those with concerns to know that town leaders are “hearing and listening.”
Palmieri said he agrees with the goal but was taken aback at meeting dates, a membership list and other specifics announced by Triano without consultation with town leaders.
“I’m not necessarily opposed to (Triano’s membership list), that’s the first I’d heard of that,” he said.
Forming the committee and who’ll serve on it needs to be explored more, according to Palmieri.
School Superintendent Tim Connellan formed a group to tackle diversity issues in the school system earlier this month. The group met for the first time last week but the gathering was closed to the press and public with education officials saying sensitive issues would be discussed.
Last week, the Record-Journal filed a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission over the secret meetings. Tom Hennick, public education officer for the Freedom of Information Commission, said that groups formed by a school superintendent are considered public under state law. Public groups are subject to FOI laws, including advance public notice of meetings, meeting agendas and meeting minutes.
Triano said her group would be open for the public and media.
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