65 appointments rescinded by newly seated New Milford council
Published 10:20 am, Wednesday, December 6, 2017
NEW MILFORD — Newly seated Mayor Pete Bass and Town Council members Monday night rescinded 65 appointments made by the prior administration and council. The meeting in which the appointments had happened was illegal, they said.
The vote to pull the appointments was 6-2 Monday night, with two Democrats voting against the reversal. Five GOP Council members, and one Democrat, Lisa Hida, voted for it.
Council members then tabled the vote to approve 58 Bass nominees for town boards and commissions. Most of those nominees were the same as those approved by the council last week, but council members unanimously opted to table the vote so people have more time to seek appointed seats.
Bass’ nominee to become town attorney, Matt Grimes, was approved by the council in a 6-2 vote, but not without some backlash.
Council member Peter Mullen said Grimes did not have enough experience to fill the role, and fellow Democrat Walter Bayer said Grimes was too partisan for consideration.
“I do not consider Matt apolitical,” Bayer said. “I have a very serious problem with that.”
When Grimes was the chairman of Brookfield’s GOP two years ago, he and the Republican registrar of voters expelled a resident from the town party, sparking litigation that cost the town tens of thousands of dollars to defend.
Grimes was later unseated as party chairman, although the court found in his favor.
Mullen also pointed out Grimes had worked for Bass as a personal lawyer in the past and asked if that played a role in Bass’ appointment.
Mullen asked how much Bass paid Grimes and asked if there was a previous arrangement for him to get the job. The job pays between $97,800 and $130,900 a year.
Grimes, citing attorney-client privilege, declined to answer how much Bass paid him, and said there was no such arrangement.
Bass said Grimes was the best person for the role. He had volunteered on several boards and commissions in nearby towns and has a wealth of legal experience, Bass said.
Monday marked the third time appointments came before the council in recent weeks.
On Dec. 20, former Mayor David Gronbach failed in his attempt to fill 107 positions on 31 town boards at what was supposed to be his last council meeting.
Then, last Monday, Gronbach called for a special meeting to approve 67 appointments to take place Tuesday. Sixty-five of them were approved over staunch GOP objections.
The meeting was illegal, Grimes wrote in an opinion. Gronbach needed to call the meeting with three days notice, but called for it one day in advance.
According to the town charter, the council must have that three days notice unless the meeting is called in “exigent circumstances,” Grimes wrote. And Gronbach, a Democrat, did not call for exigent circumstances before the meeting and did not explain what those circumstances were after being pressed by GOP Council members.
Monday night, there was some discussion as to whether the meeting was illegal. Some council members and members of the public said that little notice was often given in the past.
“From 2016, all the way until 2008, there were a dozen special meetings called with 24 hours notice,” said resident Jeff Winter. “This is not unprecedented, and frankly that’s against the rules and the charter, yet no one complains until now.”
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