Town attorney: Musto needs emergency management training to act as first selectman
While the snow was falling down over the weekend, Town Treasurer Anthony Musto was wondering why he had been skipped in the line of succession when First Selectman Tim Herbst was away in Washington D.C. last week.
Town Attorney Vincent Marino had an answer for the newly-elected official Monday, replying that Musto needed emergency management training to be designated to lead the town during the temporary absence of the first selectman.
"The Town's Charter specifically provides that if the Town Treasurer cannot perform the duties of the First Selectman then the First Selectman may appoint the Town Council Chairman," Marino said in a letter to Musto, who had challenged that the charter had been directly violated.
"You, as the new Town Treasurer have been in office for approximately two months," he added. "It is my understanding that you have not yet been trained with respect the Emergency Operations Plan."
Herbst designated Town Council Chairman Carl Massaro to act as his replacement in a letter that was signed Thursday, Jan. 14.
Speaking to The Times Tuesday morning, the first selectman said he stood by his decision and that Musto will have to undergo six to eight hours of training with the town's top emergency officials.
"We've all had to do it," Herbst explained. "It's basically walking through our emergency plans and understanding how our critical response operations work in a number of emergency situations."
Marino agreed and recommended the town treasurer receive emergency management training.
"Your predecessor, John Ponzio, and Town Council Chairman Carl Massaro underwent emergency management training when they assumed their respective duties six years ago," he wrote to Musto. "In the past, both Mr. Ponzio and Mr. Massaro have been designated to act in emergencies during a temporary absence of the First Selectman and both have been present with First Selectman Herbst in the emergency operations center during previous weather-related emergencies."
The town attorney said he spoke to Herbst before he left for his trip about the decision, and that the first selectman felt that it was "critical that the person designated to serve in his absence had the requisite emergency management training and experience.”
"The First Selectman's focus was on public safety," Marino added. "Since you lacked the requisite emergency management training, it is my opinion that First Selectman Herbst was within his rights under the town's charter to determine that you could not perform the duties of First Selectman.
"Under the circumstance, the appointment of Town Council Chairman, Carl Massaro, was appropriate and in compliance with the town's charter."
Marino's ruling drew the frustration of Democratic Town Committee chairman Tom Kelly.
“To me, it seems that Mr. Herbst must be a great weather forecaster to know that a significant weather event would be approaching the region when he signed the letter designating Mr. Massaro NINE days ago, on Jan. 14,” he said in a Facebook post over the weekend.
“It will be interesting to see if Mr. Herbst has designated Mr. Massaro previously when he has been away since the Charter specifies that the Treasurer is next in line, and he’s always had a Republican Treasurer in the past,” he added. “We’ll find out who he has designated in the past.”
The Democratic leader pointed out that First Selectman Herbst has had a contentious relationship with Musto since he was Trumbull’s state senator for six years.
“It would be great for Trumbull if Mr. Herbst would work collaboratively with the Town Treasurer,” he said. “The people of Trumbull elected him over a six year incumbent Treasurer. He should bring him up to speed on the emergency management plan for the good of the town of Trumbull. If Mr. Herbst cannot serve, the Treasurer IS the next in line, according to the Town Charter.”
For his part, Herbst said he was never contacted by Musto about the decision.
"He took it upon himself to send a letter into the Connecticut Post that claimed the charter had been violated and that leads me to believe this is nothing more than a political stunt — more of the same," he told The Times.
"If you have a legitimate question, pick up the phone and make the call and we can address it without having to go to the press or make posts on social media," he added. "It's childish behavior and it's nothing more than political nonsense."