Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Democrats walk out on McCoy over DPW director issue

By Max Bakke
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 11:01 AM EDT

VERNON —Upset with Republican Mayor Jason L. McCoy’s handling of the Department of Public Works director’s vacancy, Town Council Democrats and one Republican walked out of Tuesday’s meeting, abruptly stalling business.

Democratic Councilman Michael Winkler said fellow Democrats had asked the mayor to bring forward an appointment for the position at Tuesday’s meeting, after McCoy’s desired candidate, fellow Republican and former Councilman Robert Kleinhans was rejected at a meeting in July.

McCoy said during Tuesday’s meeting that he did not see Winkler’s request, and that he’d planned to comply with their request next month. Apparently unsatisfied with his answer, Winkler, fellow Democrats, and Republican Nancy Herold left the council chambers.

“Your failure to hire a fulltime director of public works will cost you your quorum tonight,” Winkler told the mayor and the rest of the council before leaving Town Hall.

The move elicited some grumbling from council Republicans as they packed up their things and headed into the mayor’s office.

Republican Bill Campbell called the move “more political posturing.”

Immediately following the meeting, McCoy said that since the meeting was abruptly adjourned, it could cost the town an estimated $200,000 in grants for improvements at Valley Falls Park and federal stimulus dollars for energy saving initiatives.

McCoy said he’d call an emergency special meeting today at 9:30 p.m. to address those items.

Council Democrats haven’t been the only ones taking the mayor to task over his handling of the director’s vacancy.

George Fetko, currently Ellington’s public works chief, lashed out recently at the mayor, his former boss, for failing to hire a new department head nearly six months after Fetko’s resignation.

And a couple residents gave McCoy an earful at Tuesday’s meeting over the failed attempt to hire Kleinhans in July, in a meeting room packed with public works employees.

“I’m concerned about the public works department, I’m concerned about my leaf pickup,” one resident told McCoy. “I’m not proud of who I voted for.”

In other business, the council hired acting collector of revenue Terry Hjarne to the position fulltime. Her appointment was rejected last month, when it was included in the same resolution to hire Kleinhans.

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