Partisanship charged in Trumbull finance board alternate vote

Scott Zimov

Scott Zimov

Hearst Conn. Media file photo

A seemingly routine nomination to an alternate seat on the Board of Finance at the Town Council’s Jan. 6 meeting generated hard feelings and accusations of a partisan return to the bad old days.

Scott Zimov, a former finance board member described as “eminently qualified” by council Republicans, was passed over for a Republican alternate seat on the board in favor of Marc Mascola. This was despite Zimov being the choice of the town’s Republican Party.

Zimov addressed the council before the meeting, commenting that his placement on the agenda — the third candidate in consideration for two open alternate seats — did not sit well. He said he felt that his placement was determined by politics.

“Asking for information should not be a bad thing,” he said. “There is no valid reason not to approve my nomination.”

The council’s GOP contingent agreed, and attempted to substitute Zimov’s name in place of Mascola’s when the council voted on approving Mascola’s nomination.

“Mr. Zimov has worked in banking for 17 years,” said Deputy Minority Leader Lori Rosasco-Schwartz, R-3rd. “The Republicans nominated Mr. Zimov, but the administration chose to find another candidate. Sadly, his nomination was deliberately placed third, so (approving Mascola) would effectively make his nomination moot.”

Before considering Mascola, the council had approved the nomination of Democrat Christine El Eris as an alternate member. The board has three alternate members and the alternates cannot all be the same party.

Rosasco-Schwartz said it was unfortunate that Zimov and Mascola had been placed in contention.

“It seems political to me,” she said.

Democrats acknowledged Zimov’s qualifications and service on the board, but pointed to Mascola’s 25 years of experience in corporate finance at companies like General Electric. Majority Leader Jason Marsh, D-3rd, described Mascola as a registered Republican who was not actively involved in party politics. Zimov is a member of the RTC and ran for Board of Finance in November.

“There is no reason not to vote for (Mascola),” Marsh said.

Ashley Gaudiano, D-4th, said it was important to bring new people into town roles.

“It’s incredibly hard to find people that want to run for office or serve on town boards and commissions,” she said. “We need to encourage new people to come forward.”

Ultimately the attempt to substitute Zimov for Mascola failed on a mostly party line vote and the council then voted to approve Mascola.

On Tuesday, Carl Massaro, R-3rd, the council’s minority leader, released a statement co-signed by all the council Republicans criticizing Zimov’s rejection as “bait-and-switch” politics and placing the blame at the feet of First Selectman Vicki Tesoro.

“Mrs. Tesoro complained bitterly during her predecessor’s administration that this type of conduct was unfair,” Massaro wrote. He also reminded residents that in 2015, as a candidate for first selectman, Tesoro stated “all elected boards or commissions have at least one alternate of their own political party and of their own choosing.”

Massaro also pointed out that Tesoro herself had been appointed by former First Selectman Tim Herbst to an alternate spot on the finance board.

“She constantly advocates for more fairness and transparency,” he wrote. “Yet, given the chance to act in accordance with her rhetoric, she and her supermajority attempted to mask their partisanship by suggesting new volunteers should be given a chance to serve and sadly resorted to the old bait and switch of politics.”

Tesoro in response pointed out that as first selectman, she had no role in the naming of alternates to the finance board. Some boards and commissions fill seats through first selectman appointments that are approved by the council. But that is not the process for filling Board of Finance alternate seats, she said.

“This was a Town Council approval, not me making any decision,” she said. “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.”

According to the Town Charter, alternate members “shall be appointed by the Town Council to serve for a term of three years. The term of one alternate member shall expire each year.”

Marsh, who had nominated Mascola in committee, said party politics had not played a factor in the process.

“The Board of Finance should not be political,” he said. “He had expressed an interest in getting involved with the finance board, and I put his name into the hat and it went through the process. He is supremely qualified and he wants to serve, and I would have put his name into the process if he was a Democrat, Green or unaffiliated.”

Council Chairman Marybeth Thornton, D-2nd, said the decision had come down to the council having two qualified candidates for one open seat.

“Obviously Mr. Zimov was in consideration, but the consensus was that Mr. Mascola was an outstanding candidate, and he was willing to serve,” she said. “To me it was that simple.”