Saying she hadn’t had enough time to interview a candidate for the Planning & Zoning Commission, Selectman Kathleen Corbet this week prompted the postponement of an appointment to the highly visible body.
Corbet said during Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting that she only received the resume of town resident Paul Knag on Friday afternoon and would need to abstain from a vote on his appointment to P&Z.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said during the Board’s regular meeting that he’s known Knag “for a dozen years” and that the resident is an experienced attorney who’s stepping down from his full-time role at his firm.
Addressing Knag, a guest at the meeting held in Town Hall, Corbet said, “Paul I don’t have the pleasure of knowing you, and so I’ve just got to tell you, if we go forward with the vote this week, I’m going to have to abstain, and only because as we have discussed in the past, we want to make sure that we have a chance to get to know who we’re approving so like to have the opportunity to do so over the next two weeks.”
She continued, “Otherwise I’m going to have to abstain from the vote, because there’s a fiduciary responsibility that we make sure that we know who we are appointing. That’s all. But I appreciate that you have raised your hand and are willing to be considered.”
Ultimately, the selectmen put off Knag’s appointment to its next meeting (Nov. 16).
Knag, a Republican, is to fill an alternate seat on P&Z following the resignation earlier this year of longtime member Jean Grzelecki. The seat has been open for several months.
Corbet, a Democrat, said her difficulty was “really about a process.”
“Making sure that appointments—be it Republican appointments, Democratic appointment— that there’s a, I just, again, as a separate thing, there is perhaps some information about there that is incorrect about appointments and elected positions and whether there are ‘guarantees’ by any party. There is no ‘guarantee’ that the Democrats have any seats or that the Republicans have any seats.”
Corbet cited a state law regarding minority representation. Moynihan responded that the law “effectively guarantees the minority party seats.”
Corbet said, “Certainly not for this particular appointment. There is no guarantee that they have to go to Democrats. They can go to Green Party. They can go to independents. There’s no guarantee at all.”
Moynihan said the selectmen’s practice in the past “has been we take the DTC recommendations, and we take the RTC recommendations.”
“We generally don’t veto DTC recommendations so I thought take a vote this morning,” he said.
Corbet responded, “I’m not vetoing anything. I just think we have a process.”
At one point Knag himself addressed the Board, saying, “Are there meetings coming up, special meetings of P&Z?”
When Moynihan said, “No,” Knag responded, “Oh OK. I misunderstood.”
It wasn’t clear what Knag was referring to.
Selectman Nick Williams said that as a courtesy to Corbet he would “like to give her the opportunity to get to know Paul who I think is a terrific candidate and I will be voting for you, but I would like you to get to know him over the next two weeks and we don’t need to bullrush this.”
At one point during the discussion, Corbet and Moynihan had the following exchange:
Corbet: I’m talking about any appointments or elected seats, there is no guarantee. And I just want to make sure that that’s clarified and that this is a process whenever we consider appointed positions to any party, that we have the opportunity to meet the—
Moynihan: —Well, as a courtesy, you are raising this in a different context. As a courtesy, we have generally replaced a Republican with a Republican and a Democrat with a Democrat.
Corbet: It doesn’t have to be that way.
Moynihan: It doesn’t have to be. On the other hand, it’s the prerogative of this Board to follow a courtesy that—
Corbet: —Or to have the best candidates. And then making sure that, again, no one party—
Moynihan: —I would welcome your help in terms of identifying replacements for the current incumbents, in many cases, to find the best candidates.