OPINION: Wallingford Town Council chairman explains decision on council replacement

By Vinny Cervoni

On Tuesday, January 18, 2022, the Wallingford Town Council was faced with the uncommon, yet, not unprecedented task of appointing the replacement for Gina Morgenstein, who had recently resigned from the Town Council. Ms. Morgenstein’s resignation was complicated by her and her town committee’s attempt to direct the council from the start. 

In the week before the end of the year, 2021, Ms. Morgenstein had sent an email to Tom Laffin and myself, advising us that she would be resigning for the upcoming term and that Alexa Tomassi is her designated replacement, even going so far as to suggest how the agenda should reflect such an appointment. Then, the emails from the Democratic Town Committee began to pour in. 

It was not until two weeks after her announcement that Ms. Morgenstein had properly delivered her written resignation to the Town Clerk, in compliance with the Wallingford Town Charter.  Then, the emails in support of Alexa Tomassi continued.  Among the repeated themes in the emails was the assertion that Alexa Tomassi must be appointed by the council to respect the will of the voters. 

Our information from reliable sources is that Jason Zandri left the Democratic Town Committee upon learning that, not only would his town committee only nominate six candidates to run for council, he would likely not have been one of the six. The day he was able to obtain petition forms from the town clerk, he suffered a cardiac event that put him in the hospital, unconscious for two weeks. He got no help from the Democratic Town Committee in the attempts made by others to obtain the requisite signatures and was not able to petition onto the ballot. 

Jason Zandri had a history of successful elections with reasonably high vote totals. All indications would leave one to believe that, had he been on the ballot, he would have won re-election. For those reasons, it is disingenuous to suggest that the only way the council could respect the will of the voters was to exclude Jason Zandri. 

The Record-Journal article noted that the police were at the Town Hall during the meeting. I’ve seen on social media the suggestion that a Republican must have called the police in the interest of limiting free speech during the meeting. The police never entered the council chambers. Therefore, none of those directly involved in the meeting had any knowledge that the police were called or were at Town Hall. I suspect a Freedom of Information request for the call log at the Wallingford Police Department would reveal that no Republican had called the police. 

I’ve read that one former councilor has never experienced such a short public comment period on an action item. Our Council Rules limit public comment to 20 minutes per agenda item, not per motion made on an agenda item. I allowed more than twice as much time than is allowed by the Council Rules. 

I’ve read from one writer to the Record-Journal that what happened at the first council meeting was contrary to what I had said in my acceptance speech after being nominated chairman. This is what I had said in my acceptance speech: “I ask my fellow councilors to remember that, after the disagreements are hashed out and the issues resolved, one way or the other, we still live in the same village. Let us remember that we are closer than we are farther. Therefore, the divide is counterproductive.” 

I was asking my fellow councilors to be civil to each other after we have hashed out our disagreements on the council. My fellow councilors on both sides of the aisle did that. Before the first vote was complete, the Democratic Town Committee members in attendance at the meeting had exploded into such disruptive rancor and vitriol as has never been heard in those council chambers. They continued to disrupt the meeting until the chairman recognized Councilor (Vincent) Testa who directed them to stop. Then, it subsided temporarily and resumed until the last vote was cast for Councilor Zandri. It would appear that that letter writer has reversed the meaning of my words to suit his purpose. 

It was nothing short of disappointing to all members of the council to experience the reaction of those in attendance. In my time on the council, things have not always gone the way I’ve wanted. Things have not always gone the way members of the public would have liked. However, it is our reaction in the face of adversity that displays our character. 

Republican Vinny Cervoni is chairman of the Wallingford Town Council.


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