Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Mayor McCoy: What have you done for us lately?

By Edie Chernack
Journal Inquirer
Letters to the Editor
Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 12:06 PM EDT

In the winter of 2007, when time was up for several members of the Vernon Planning and Zoning Commission, some wondered if Mayor Jason McCoy was going to reappoint them as they had asked.

One of these members, an attorney who had been on the PZC for four years, used her legal expertise to support many of her decisions on PZC applications. When it looked like she wasn’t going to be reappointed, I spoke on her behalf at a citizens forum before a Town Council meeting. I asked, “Who in their right mind turns down free legal advice?”

Apparently the answer is McCoy, as he did not reappoint her.

Additionally, my husband, Lance Chernack, who sat on the PZC for 2½ years, was up for reappointment last fall. Lance had two PZC members, one Republican Town Council member, and three residents speak on his behalf. The mayor appointed him instead to a Human Services Committee which Lance had not sought.

At the request of the award-winning chairwoman of the Conservation Commission, I presented myself, along with a letter of recommendation she had written, to be an alternate on the commission last fall. Former Inland Wetlands Commission Chairman and then Democratic Town Committee Vice Chairman Steve Taylor presented himself for the Economic Development Commission. Neither Taylor nor I ever even heard from McCoy. Lance, who had sent several e-mails, called and went so far as to send a certified letter. He never heard anything from McCoy, either.

What mayor in his right mind turns away volunteers who want to give their time to their town?

Here are more examples of why I question the mayor’s judgment:

When Charlotte Adams, the mayor’s assistant, left that position after four years, making $60,000, McCoy hired then deputy mayor and Town Council member Diane Wheelock to take her place. Wheelock, though having been a mayor of Vernon for two years, was not trained for the position of executive assistant, and has been taking classes. Why is she making top pay, allegedly $65,000, for a position for which she is having to train? She also has an assistant. Why? Can’t she do the job Adams did while making less money?

John Ward was hired as interim town administrator, then was given the position full time to the tune, I understand, of $90,000 a year. Ward may be a good attorney, but he isn’t qualified to be the town administrator, or McCoy wouldn’t be hiring an assistant town administrator for $77,000, and a lobbyist at $30,000. Don’t we already have two state representatives for Vernon to go after grant money for our town? Why do we need a lobbyist too?

I thought McCoy was trying to reduce town government spending. If so, why is he hiring unqualified people at top dollar, then hiring assistants for them to pick up the slack of what they don’t know?

McCoy’s campaign slogan was “A mayor for us.” Exactly who is “us”? Is it the folks who live in the condos, where he promised to pay for their fire hydrant hook-ups and their streetlights? Is it the people who he has appointed to town jobs, starting at or close to top pay? Is it friends he’s appointed to the Economic Development Commission? Is it his most recent hire, I am also told, of a Republican Town Council member’s brother-in-law to fill a top position at DPW? This man is not only drawing a salary for a job that two volunteers offered to do at no cost to the town, he is already receiving a pension from when he retired from the town of Vernon roughly 10 years ago.

So, who is “us”? It certainly doesn’t seem to be the folks who want to give our time to our town but don’t happen to be of the same political mind as McCoy.

Under McCoy, our town has lost at least a half dozen department heads. Why are they all leaving? How many more are going to follow? What is going on that they want to leave in the first place?

Being a taxpayer, I should be able to get information strictly by asking town employees. However, it seems that there is a gag order in place, as no one will give much information without a person requesting it under the Freedom of Information Act. Even Town Council members have to file an FOI to get information. Yet, they are elected officials, chosen to work on behalf of town residents — the people who are supposed to be “us.” Why must we file an FOI to get information to which we should have easy access?

Is it true, as I have heard, that the mayor spent close to $15,000 to purchase 20 Blackberries for department heads rather than picking up a regular phone and calling them. Because the Town Council has his party in the majority — and they seem willing to give him whatever he wants — McCoy can do as he pleases.

Being a taxpayer, I am outraged. The “Mayor for us” seems to be working on behalf of himself, his friends, and his party. I have yet to see him do anything that benefits anyone else. All the school, bridge, and road work bonds were acquired under former Mayor Ellen Marmer. Now our schools’ budget is being cut by $300,000, we’ll be losing eight teachers, and losing resource officers who help keep the schools safe.

Worse, McCoy wants this budget to go to a vote at an evening town meeting rather than through a referendum vote. This will prevent people who work second shift, get out of work late, or don’t drive at night from having their legal right to voice their thoughts and concerns, as well as limiting the number who can attend so as not to fill the room beyond the safe fire code capacity.

So I have to ask McCoy: To paraphrase Janet Jackson, what have you done for “us” lately?

Edie Chernack is a resident of Vernon.

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