OPINION: Accepting the nomination to serve on the Wallingford Town Council

By Jason Zandri

I’ve finished reading Steve Knight’s Sunday op-ed piece; I am glad he expressed his opinions and his recollections of the past. I am going to give my own and correct some of his recollections to set the record straight.

In December, the reappointment of Mr. Edwin Makepeace for the Personnel and Pension Appeals Board was addressed. He was already serving, wanted reappointment, and the mayor as the nominating body also wanted this. The mayor commented that Mr. Makepeace was already serving and performing the job in the role. Despite this, several councilors took issue with Mr. Makepeace’s reappointment, citing questionable conduct in public (in a reported encounter with Riley O’Connell, the Democratic mayoral candidate), and exercised their right to NOT reappoint him — there was only one affirmative vote. Technically speaking, the council didn’t even need to offer any explanation to their NO votes if they simply wanted a different candidate, but there was a lengthy discussion at the meeting defending where people were leaning and why. There were no outbursts from the crowd. The vote was executed, and from there the mayor would to go back and submit another candidate for consideration. That is how those rules work for those types of appointments.

Switching to the recent events of the council, the standing operations of filling a vacant council seat were correctly followed. The Democrat Town Committee put forward a nominee. The council can accept that nomination or reject it. In this case, they rejected the forwarded nominee. The council took its Charter directed options and nominated someone else. This is not the first time this situation has happened, and it may happen again unless there is a change to the Charter. It is the duty and responsibility of the Town Council to appoint someone when a seat is vacated and that process is outlined in the Town Charter. Just as in the Pension Appeals Board nomination, the council can select a nominee placed forward by the appropriate nominating body or take another set of allowed actions. That was the case for the Town Council appointment — they noted NO on the nominee presented to them.

I have been chastised and vilified for accepting the nomination and that’s to be expected when some people do not get their way but the way that it was done was deplorable. If I should be ashamed of myself for accepting a nomination that the DTC didn’t put me up for then they should be equally ashamed at their behavior in the meeting. At the end of the day, if I had declined the nomination, someone else would have been nominated because the council was not willing to accept the candidate presented to them. Almost any other person would be vilified in the exact same manner because the DTC didn’t get who they wanted. Plain and simple. This would still be the discussion of the day — how someone that wasn’t nominated was seated. And that is about all of their argument because I can do the job — unless they would care to dispute that as well.

Back when the DTC nominated Peter Gouveia in 1997, he hadn’t run for the office the year prior. He was not #10. He got zero votes from the prior election. But it’s who the DTC wanted to replace the late David Doherty; because it was what they wanted, there was none of the rhetoric that you hear today. No arguments about the will of the people and how it was all taken away by the Republican majority. I wonder what the response would have been if that council at the time decided to decline the DTC appointment and select candidate #10.

Steve Knight wrote this past Sunday that he was a member of the council at that time and it was the easiest vote he ever had to make.

The saying goes — “people that don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it.” It would seem that those that don’t remember their own history clearly forget their own commentary.

In the July 7, 1997 edition of the Record Journal it was reported “GOP Councilor Steve Knight didn’t like Gouveia’s objections (to the delay in the nomination and vote) and is now saying he may vote against Gouveia even after the 30-day time period has passed. He (Knight) has cited some 1980 incident where the Democrats voted against the Republican nominee.” (“Good and bad politics in Wallingford”— opinion column, R-J, 7/7/1997).

“There was precedent set years (17) ago by the Democrats,” he said.

“I do not feel obligated to put their first nominee on the council automatically”.

In the July 2, 1997 edition of the Record-Journal, Knight responded to comments Gouveia had made by saying “I thought it was tacky.” “If he (Gouveia) intends to be as contentious as I saw him last Tuesday, I’m not so sure I’ll vote for him.” (“Gouveia’s remarks rankle some members of council,” R-J. 7/2/1997).

Guess it wasn’t as easy as he thought he remembered.

Then again, I suppose something worth doing never is.

Democrat Jason Zandri is a Wallingford town councilor.


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