When leading opposition figures make a fuss about nothing, it means that things must actually be going very well with North Haven’s new administration.
What do I mean by “fuss”? For example, Republican Board of Finance member Timothy Doheny wrote a letter to the editor complaining that he and other Republican members of town boards were not sent formal invitations (not paid for by the town, incidentally) to the inauguration. He accused the Democrats of failing to show they can “lead with sincerity and dignity.”
But all he showed is that he didn’t bother to ask who had actually been sent invitations. He would have discovered that newly elected Republicans and Democrats were invited, but other board and commission members, for the most part, were not. And he might have noted that everyone in town was invited, and that he and many other non-formally-invited people did attend.
At the December 6 Board of Selectmen meeting, Republican Town Committee Chair Elinor Pedalino got bent out of shape over the Board of Selectmen members’ failure to immediately select a replacement for Kevin Kopetz, only four days after they were legally allowed to do so. This is a very serious decision, and First Selectwoman Janet McCarty is in the midst of starting a new job, making a zillion other important decisions and meeting with many people with whom she will be working over the next two years.
But this did not stop the Town Committee chair from accusing Ms. McCarty of hypocrisy, of closing out the Republicans, of giving the town a closed government, and of a lack of due process.
Ms. Pedalino didn’t bother to change her prepared speech when she learned that nothing important was decided at the BoS meeting, other than the appointment of the Town Attorney and an Assistant Town Attorney. And she didn’t bother to note that public comments could be made both before and after the Board discussed this issue.
Two years ago, the Republican majority on the BoS would not let anyone speak at all during the meeting where Mr. Donofrio was appointed Town Attorney, and Ms. Pedalino had nothing to say about that.
The fact is that Ms. McCarty stands for open government, and she has already opened government up enormously and in many ways. She fought for public comments during meetings, and finally won. She has made her home phone number and email address public information. She has gone on TV twice already to share with North Haveners what is going on, and she has offered to answer their questions not alone in an office, but also publicly, where all can hear. She is working to further improve the improved website she worked for, to make everyone at Town Hall more accessible, via email and fax, and to make information accessible to everyone, to help citizens participate in their government.
To say that Ms. McCarty is not giving us open government – the thing I have fought for so hard myself – is the most vicious lie possible. I think Ms. Pedalino should be replaced with someone who can better represent the honest, public-spirited Republicans in this town.
But Ms. Pedalino and Mr. Doheny are not alone in trying to make a fuss out of nothing.
Right there with her is former, long-time Board of Finance Acting Chair (somehow the Democrats managed to elect a Chair at their first Board of Finance meeting) Michael O. Peterson. At the December 12 BoF meeting, he also implied hypocrisy on the part of the Democrats, who spoke of open government, he said, but did not seem to be providing it.
What example of this did he bring up? A fact-finding meeting on November 20, while he was still acting BoF chair, between three BoF members (two Dems and one GOP), our acting finance director, and our special auditor.
This meeting was not noticed as a meeting, and Mr. Peterson said this was illegal because (i) three BoF members is a quorum (this is not true; Section 301D of the Charter says the number is four); (ii) because there were members of both parties present, which makes it a meeting (also not true; Section 1-200(2) of the Freedom of Information Act speaks of a meeting consisting of a quorum, not a mix of parties, because without a quorum nothing can be decided); and (iii) because the meeting was of the audit subcommittee (two of the three BoF members present at the meeting were, indeed, also members of the audit subcommittee, making it a quorum of that subcommittee, but its chair, Republican Timothy Doheny, said that he did not consider it a meeting of the audit subcommittee, that he did not consider the audit subcommittee to be active, and in any event he considered it only a fact-finding get-together, not a meeting to make decisions).
Again, an implication of Democratic hypocrisy (not giving us the open government they promised) was misplaced. And again, the person causing the fuss didn’t bother to check: he thought Janet McCarty was present at the meeting and that she should have been responsible, although she wasn’t present, was not even a member of the BoF at the time, and Peterson himself was its Chair and therefore responsible.
I know, it sounds silly. But that’s the best they could do. The Republican leaders couldn’t wait for Ms. McCarty to make some real mistakes, to really close people out of the town’s decision-making, to actually break laws the way Republican leaders did day in and day out.
And then there’s the fuss the Republican Town Committee Treasurer, Antoinetta Carmody, made at the December 6 Board of Selectmen meeting about the new assistant town attorney. For my views on our new assistant town attorney, click here.
It’s clear that there will be no honeymoon for the Democrats. People with what Mr. Doheny calls “sincerity and dignity” give those who replace them in office a little time to get going before they start attacking them.
But not in North Haven, at least not among North Haven’s Republican leaders. If the Republicans want to get back to respectability, they need leaders who will act respectable and show respect. Not leaders like Ms. Pedalino or her predecessor, Joseph Ierardi, or his predecessor, Gary Johns, who used his position to take a North Haven job for which he did not have qualifications (requiring the town to pay extra for the services of a certified Assessor).
The Republicans lost power because they abused it. If they abuse the open government Janet McCarty and friends have given North Haven, they will deserve to stay where they are.
It’s time to earn back our respect, not play the same old tired, ugly games.