It was disturbing to see in the West Hartford News that Republican Party leader Carl Donatelli said there have been Democrats recently changing their party affiliation to Independent in anticipation of Carpenter’s resignation. The obvious implication is that the Democrats may be prepared to pick a successor to the soon-to-resign Barbara Carpenter (who really ought to step down now, however much I admire her) who isn’t really unaffiliated or a GOP loyalist.
There’s a reason the state law requires minority representation. It’s to ensure there are watchdogs in place to keep an eye on the majority.
In our town, that function is mostly gone, with one Republican switching sides and another allied with the Democrats. That leaves just one GOP councilman, Mark Sinatro, to hold a line that should have three people.
The majority councilors should see the wisdom in genuine opposition and let the Republicans pick someone to replace Carpenter. Let Donatelli and his gang provide a handful of possibilities and pick one of them. Or at least turn to someone that we can all trust to be a good Republican, not a Democratic lapdog. And I say that as a voter who generally backs the Democrats.
I have great respect for Barbara Carpenter, a strong, independent voice for good government in our town.
But she’s dead wrong in staying on the town council now.
This week, she won election as the head of the town’s teachers’ union, a position she says she cannot hold while serving on the council because it would be a conflict of interest.
So, she told the Hartford Courant, she will leave the council when she takes over the union in July.
But the simple truth is that whatever conflict of interest she will have come July exists already. She is now the president-elect of the union, which presents just as much potential for problems as if she were the president.
“There would be a conflict of interest if I were on the council and I was serving both groups,” Carpenter told the Courant recently. “Ethically, it would be wrong for me to do that.”
Carpenter has served our town well. But it’s time for her to resign.
The town’s Republican Party chairman, Carl Donatelli, is right on the money with his analysis of who should get to appoint a successor to Barbara Carpenter, a registered Republican member of the town council who is going to resign.
Carpenter was elected as an independent, but all along she was a registered member of the Grand Old Party, even if she didn’t get along with the likes of Donatelli. (I don’t know the man, so I can’t begin to say whether her distaste was justified, by the way.)
Anyway, Donatelli argues that because Carpenter is a Republican on the rolls, the GOP should pick her successor, not the Democratic majority. That strikes me as a perfectly reasonable position. There’s no sense in having a state law that says the Democrats can’t control more than six of the nine seats and then let them fill one or more of the other seats with handpicked cronies. It flies in the face of common sense.
I would make the point, though, that Donatelli and the Republicans would be wise to pick a moderate, well-liked person — soon — and let us all know who it is they would select. It would be easier for the Democrats and the lawyers to back down from a fight if they knew they could get along with choice the GOP would make. Call that an unofficial compromise and be done with it.
Today’s Courant has an interesting, and well done, story about town council member Barbara Carpenter’s bid to become the next president of the West Hartford Education Association, the teacher’s union here.
Carpenter, a political independent, told the paper she’ll step down from the council if she wins the part-time union job. She’s a kindergarten teacher at Braeburn.
“There would be a conflict of interest if I were on the council and I was serving both groups. Ethically, it would be wrong for me to do that,” Carpenter told reporter Daniel P. Jones of the Courant, who deserves a nod of thanks for laying this story out completely.
There’s a chance someone else will win the teacher’s union job – Brenda Key, a third grade teacher at Duffy is trying to snag it, too – but if Carpenter wins it, the council faces an unusual issue: how to replace an independent? Normally, the members of council who hail from the same party pick a successor when someone resigns mid-term. But there are no other independents on the council, just six Democrats and two Republicans.
Pat Alair, the town’s deputy corporation counsel, told the Courant that anyone on the council will be able to nominate a successor as long as the nominee is not a registered Democrat. By state law, there can be no more than six members of any one part on the 9-person council.
That opens the door to all kinds of mischief and fun. I hope the Courant reports on it in detail.