Town Democrats disagree with Herbst's Charter Revision nominations

First Selectman Timothy Herbst last week nominated five people to serve on the Charter Revision Commission, but town Democrats are putting forth their own nominations for the Town Council to consider.

Recently, the Town Council voted to impanel a commission to look at adding pension funding language to the charter, at the request of Herbst. Some Democrats on the council worried that the commission could be politically motivated. Herbst said he would propose that no one on the commission be active in local politics, to quell any concerns.

The first selectman has nominated Town Clerk Suzanne Burr Monaco, former Board of Finance Chairman Kenneth Martin Jr., attorney Adam Maiocco, attorney Daniel Portanova and Daniel Shamas, retired assistant superintendent of schools in Bridgeport.

“These five qualified people will take politics out of the charter revision process and make recommendations for the benefit of the citizens and taxpayers of Trumbull,” Herbst said. “I am confident that they will act quickly within the next 90 days to submit their report to the Trumbull Town Council to be approved by the voters in November.”

The Town Council will be voting on Herbst’s nominations this Thursday at a special meeting, at 8 p.m. in Town Hall.

However, the Trumbull Democratic Town Committee proposed the Town Council name an alternative line-up of members for the Charter Revision Commission, saying that some of those nominated by Herbst are political contributors to his past campaigns. Democrats say that while Burr Monaco and Martin have been campaign contributors for Herbst, they would support them serving on the commission

“To represent the Democratic perspective, Trumbull Democrats will nominate Tom Tesoro and Cindy Katske,” Democrats said in a release. “Both are attorneys, and neither is a member of the Trumbull Democratic Town Committee. Both have been dedicated community volunteers for the last two decades.”

As a fifth member of the commission, Democrats propose appointing Vincent DeGennaro, a current alternate on the Board of Finance, who is an unaffiliated voter.

“Mr. Herbst ignored a time-honored tradition in Trumbull of asking the minority party for recommendations,” Democrats said. “For the past few years, he has routinely ignored or failed to nominate people recommended by the Democratic Party.”

Herbst’s recommendation to appoint Dan Portonova and Daniel Shamas are also inappropriate, Democrats say, because both are campaign contributors.

"The Democrats nominated by Mr. Herbst, Dan Portonova and Daniel Shamas, are both contributors to Herbst election campaigns," Democrats said. "In the case of Mr. Portonova, the amount contributed is more than $1,000. Surely no reasonable person can conclude that politics has been removed from this process when the Democrats Mr. Herbst wants to appoint are also his financial supporters. In addition, two of the Republicans Mr. Herbst has nominated, Ken Martin, Jr., Suzanne Burr Monaco, and are also financial contributors. Burr Monaco has contributed nearly $3,000 since fall 2008, and and Martin has contributed more than $1,500."

The first selectman asserted last week that the Charter Revision Commission is not about politics and he doesn’t believe “political zealots” belong on the commission.

“As I said earlier this month before the Trumbull Town Council, when it comes to pension reform, this process is about math and not politics. I am confident that this group will work well together and make decisions based upon the entire town,” Herbst said of his nomination. “The last thing the Town of Trumbull needs is a partisan zealot on the Charter Revision Commission that will approach every decision with a political agenda. What we need are good people that have stepped forward for all the right reasons.”

Herbst’s nominees are not active members of either Democratic or Republican town committees, he said and none served on previous charter revision commissions.

“Two of the five nominees are attorneys, which will assist the commission in the drafting of proposed charter language, he said. “One of the nominees is a retired assistant superintendent of schools, who understands state statutes and the lines of differentiation between a municipality and boards of education,” Herbst said in a release. “One of the nominees, as Town Clerk, is the keeper of all Town records and understands the roles of current boards and commissions relative to the Town Charter. Another nominee is a former Board of Finance Chairman who understands keenly the town’s problem with the pension fund having dealt with it during annual budget deliberations.”

The first selectman will also support one of the two Democrats on the commission being elected chairman.

Still, Democrats said they don’t believe that Herbst is remaining non-political in his choices.

“Trumbull Democrats believe that its nominees will better serve Trumbull,” a press release said. “I’s proposed makeup of the Charter Revision Commission should not be stacked with Mr. Herbst’s campaign contributors.”