SOUTHINGTON — New Republican Town Council leadership wants to use an application process to select a town attorney, a position that’s often been a political appointment.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, new Town Council Chairwoman Victoria Triano chose two councilors, a Democrat and a Republican who are also attorneys, to serve on a committee with her to select a town attorney.
“I felt, and our side all felt, we really need to try to get the right person for a job regardless of whether they are a (Republican or Democrat),” said Triano, a Republican. “We felt we should at least make it an open process.”
On Tuesday, the council unanimously appointed Alex Ricciardone as assistant town attorney as well as interim town attorney.
Democrats took a majority on the council two years ago and appointed Carolyn Futtner to the position. Futtner had run unsuccessfully for a council seat as a Democrat in that election.
Republicans voted for Futtner’s appointment, but complained they received her name the night of the vote.
Chris Palmieri, a Democratic councilor and former chairman, said it’s been the majority party’s prerogative to name a town attorney.
Triano said the job has been a “political plum” but is hoping to change that with a hiring process similar to other jobs in town government and participation from both majority and minority parties.
“We can’t play politics with that position,” she said. “It’s a matter of choosing someone who’s the right fit.”
Councilor Val DePaolo, the Democrat on the search committee, said the bipartisan approach was “a good way to start the term.” DePaolo is joined by GOP Councilor William Dziedzic.
“You’re not looking just at a party affiliation,” DePaolo said. “You’re getting the best candidate.”
Triano has served as council chairwoman before, leading a Republican majority that broke with tradition in 2003 and appointed a Democrat, Mark Sciota, as town attorney. Sciota remained in the position until his promotion to town manager despite the council majority changing several times.
Triano is hoping for similar stability with the selection planned for next month.
“It worked out well. It’s a good model to use,” she said.
The Town Charter requires the town attorney to be a lawyer who’s practiced for at least five years. The council appoints an attorney who serves for the two-year term.