Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Herbst, McCoy dominate council meeting Tuesday

By Max Bakke
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, June 3, 2009 11:56 AM EDT

VERNON — A row between Democratic Councilwoman Marie Herbst and Republican Mayor Jason L. McCoy dominated an otherwise brief Town Council meeting Tuesday.

At the center of the tiff were two often belabored political squabbles — the mayor’s $23,000 lobbying contract with New Britain-based Gaffney, Bennett & Associates, and a salary reduction for employees in the town clerk and building department offices, which were approved by the council during its budget deliberations.

Herbst restated her objection to the lobbying contract, arguing that it remains an inappropriate use of town funds for state advocacy, which already is happening in Hartford by others working for the town’s interest, such as the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the town’s three legislators.

In retort, McCoy maintained the added voice in Hartford is working to protect the town’s financial interests.

“I’m not asking it to go there on some Republican cause,” McCoy said of the firm, adding that lobbyists representing the town have had meetings with area lawmakers and often update the administration on ongoing events in Hartford that relate to Vernon’s interest.

Jay Malcynsky, the firm’s chief lobbyist and town’s liaison in Hartford, also represents the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, of which McCoy serves on its board of governors.

“My position is to make sure that the budget is fully funded,” he said.

Herbst also objected to a recent legal opinion written by Town Attorney Hal Cummings that says the council is permitted by charter to reduce the salaries of classified positions in the town clerk and building offices because the council did not reduce specific positions, only the general wage accounts in those departments.

Herbst said minutes from the budget hearing and the town’s approved budget, which identifies individual reductions in positions including an assistant town clerk’s post, belie that opinion.

“Frankly, I think this opinion is not based on the minutes … relative to the departments it discusses,” she said. “If Mr. Cummings would have gone back to the minutes … I think he would’ve looked at things differently.”

McCoy said that argument “was not true,” and the assistant town clerk’s position is being dually funded with cash remaining in the wage account in the tax collector’s budget.

The two then accused one another of acting in their own best interests, not that of the town, at which point two Republican Councilmen — Mark Etre and Dan Anderson — interjected, arguing the council’s time could be better used on other matters.

“We’ve got other things for us to do as a town council … for us to continue to discuss the same things, I just get frustrated,” Etre said.

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