Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Charter commission appointments rile Democrats

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer June 8, 2012

VERNON — Whatever friendly sentiments between Republicans and Democrats about working together were left from the election seem to have soured as debate over the handling of a proposed review of the nearly 22-year-old town charter heats up.

Republican Mayor George F. Apel presented a charter revision commission proposal and possible timeline at the Town Council meeting Tuesday.

But Democratic council member Thomas DiDio said Republicans have succeeded in "pushing us aside" and said he wouldn't be surprised if Republicans already have a plan in mind for what they want to see changed.

Last revised in 1990, the charter is a codified list of rules that governs the powers and responsibilities of town employees, elected officials, and general town operations.

While it's generally agreed that the charter is outdated and overdue for review, Republicans and Democrats could not agree Tuesday on how that process should be handled and deadlocked 6-6 on a resolution to amend the charter, with Republican council member Adam Weissberger joining Democrats in opposition.

Council members failed to take action on a second resolution that would have created a five-member charter revision commission.

In a memorandum released Wednesday, Apel listed five people selected to serve on the commission, including proposed chairwoman, Democrat Dorian Reiser Famiglietti, Democrat Gretchen Shea, unaffiliated voter Carl Bard, and Republicans Wesley Shorts and Christy Vale.

Apel said today he selected the group "from searching through voter lists and so forth and having some idea of the people's backgrounds and what they can contribute. ... It was through a lot of thoughtful analysis."

In an email sent Wednesday evening, DiDio reiterated his belief that Democrats have been left out of the process, saying that Apel, "obviously opted to ignore our request for bipartisanship" by compiling the commission.

But Apel said today that "this is the normal procedure" for creation of a charter revision commission as outlined in the charter, and the final makeup of the group will be reviewed and approved by the full council.

"My job is to appoint and the Town Council reviews and either affirms it or doesn't," Apel said.

Copyright © 2012 - Journal Inquirer