Democrats respond to hypocrisy claims in Trumbull finance board vote

TRUMBULL — Days after a Town Council vote to fill an alternate seat on the Board of Finance escalated into charges of partisanship and broken promises, the finger-pointing continues.

Following Monday night’s council meeting, when the council voted to approve Republican Marc Mascola for the seat over the GOP’s pick, former finance board member Scott Zimov, the council’s Republican caucus released a statement accusing the town’s Democratic administration of hypocrisy.

In the statement, the five Republicans complained that First Selectman Vicki Tesoro had run for office in 2015 endorsing the view that “all elected boards or commissions have at least one alternate of their own political party and of their own choosing.”

Following the publication of the GOP statement in the Trumbull Times, council Democrats Kevin Shively, D-2nd, and Bill Mecca, D-1st, responded, defending the council’s actions and pointing out that Tesoro has no role in the naming of Board of Finance alternates. According to the Town Charter, the board’s alternate members “shall be appointed by the Town Council.”

Shively, in a letter to the editor, called Republican claims that Tesoro was behind Zimov’s rejection “patently false and personally insulting.”

He said no one in the administration had ever contacted him about how he might vote on the issue.

“My vote not to support Mr. Zimov reflected a fundamental difference of opinion regarding Mr. Zimov’s previous actions and positions taken while he was a member of the Board of Finance,” Shively wrote. “Others may disagree, but I truly believe that I voted in the best interest of my town. My vote is my own, and I stand by it.”

Tesoro herself also has said she is committed to a policy of non-interference with the responsibilities of the town’s boards and commissions.

“I have maintained, and will maintain until the last day I’m in this office, that I don’t tell the Town Council how to vote,” she said.

Council Vice-Chairman Jason Marsh, D-3rd, nominated Mascola, a CPA and corporate finance executive, for the alternate seat in December. Zimov, who has 17 years experience in banking, currently with Bank of America, was nominated by the council Republicans in early December.

“We named him as our choice for the seat Dec. 3,” said Minority Leader Carl Massaro, R-3rd. “We were later contacted (by Council Democrats) and told that he would not be approved and that they had another Republican candidate.”

Mecca said Mascola had attended the council’s Rules and Research Committee meeting the previous week where he had shared his interest and qualifications in person. Zimov was absent from the committee meeting.

“It feels intentionally misleading to not have mentioned that detail,” Mecca said.

Zimov said he had not been informed of the meeting.

Massaro said he had intended to tell him about the meeting but had inadvertently forgotten to do so.

“I didn’t call him, and obviously they didn’t either,” he said.

But Zimov’s absence from the committee meeting should have been irrelevent, Massaro said.

“He is well-known to everybody,” Massaro said. “The fact is they were never going to put him on.”

Zimov agreed.

“The fact is, Vicki Tesoro has said more than once that the party’s alternate seats should be held by people the party chose,” Zimov said. “That’s why (in 2016) when there was an opening for a Democrat on the Board of Finance, I agreed with the Democrats and texted (former first selectman) Tim Herbst that he should approve their choice to have Vicki fill the seat.”

Massaro also scoffed at the idea that Tesoro was blameless in Zimov’s rejection.

“He doesn’t vote the way the administration would like,” he said. “They wanted someone that would make it easier for them to get what they want.”

But Mecca said it was Mascola’s in-person demeanor and résumé that swung the council to back him, saying that Mascola “had attended both meetings, had a great resume as well and exhibited a fresh perspective as a newcomer.”

Zimov himself said he has frequently been a voice of opposition on the board. He specifically recalled a board discussion of a proposed aquatics center when he said the board’s Democrats “went into attack mode” over his pointed questions. But he defended his actions as being in the town’s fiscal interest.

“Asking for information should not be a bad thing,” he said.