Norwich council resolution prompts call for input

Norwich - The final meeting of the current City Council Monday won't be without controversy, as Democratic Mayor-elect Deberey Hinchey objects to a proposed resolution naming seven members to a charter revision commission without input from the other four council members.

Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom and Democratic aldermen Charles Jaskiewicz - who lost the mayoral primary to Hinchey - and Mark Bettencourt met over the weekend to discuss who should be appointed to a charter revision commission. The three submitted a resolution naming seven members to the commission to be presented at Monday's 7:30 p.m. council meeting.

Hinchey and other council members said they had expected to come to the meeting and have each council member make a nomination to the proposed charter commission - as the past council did.

"I think that's something that should have input from everyone," Hinchey said. "This is really important. … They all got together and looked at these people and thought they were all good, but what about the rest of us?"

Alderman Francois "Pete" Desaulniers, the council president pro tempore, agreed with Hinchey and said he would not support the resolution as presented. Desaulniers said Nystrom did not attend Tuesday's agenda setting meeting, and his letter proposing the resolution was not presented at that time. But the new resolution with the names is on the final agenda for Monday.

Desaulniers said the original resolution does not have names, presuming aldermen would nominate people that night.

"They were trying to impose their will on the rest of us, and I'm not going to go along with it at all," Desaulniers said.

Alderman H. Tucker Braddock, who did not seek re-election and will leave the council after Monday, said he was away over the weekend and was surprised to learn of the resolution. Braddock had planned to come to Monday's meeting with a nominee to put forward.

"I wish we had stayed with the original plan to have each council person naming a person," Braddock said. "I was prepared to name the person. I have since called that person back."

Nystrom, Jaskiewicz and Bettencourt all denied that they are trying to circumvent wishes of other aldermen. Nystrom said the three met over the weekend to propose names of qualified and non-political people to serve on the proposed commission. The commission can only have a simple majority of members from one political affiliation, so if council members each proposed someone from his or her own party, the commission would be 5-2 Democrats.

The resolution would name Richard Podurgiel, Kathleen Murphy, Robert Staley, Debra Dickey, Brian Eckenrode, Michael Gualtieri and Linda Becker to a charter revision commission.

Bettencourt and Jaskiewicz said the resolution is just a starting point and can be amended on the floor by anyone wishing to propose different nominees.

"They (Nystrom and Jaskiewicz) asked me to participate in the discussion in reviewing the names for agenda setting," Bettencourt said, "and I called a few people on the list, both Republicans and Democrats, and that was what went forward. All this is subject to amendment by the council."

The three also responded to Hinchey's email response in which she asked "who authorized" the three of them to propose names.

"Anyone has a right to put a resolution on a council meeting agenda," Nystrom said. "This is just a recommendation of seven good people willing to serve. If someone wants to propose a change, they can do that."

The state Freedom of Information law prohibits public agencies from conducting business through private communications, such as telephone calls and emails. The initial proposed resolution by the three members was submitted to other aldermen, and when Hinchey asked the question of the mayor, he responded to all aldermen.

"Deb asked a question of me this morning, and I responded to her," Nystrom said. "I treated everybody equally, so responded to everyone."

c.bessette@theday.com

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