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In a recent editorial, we expressed disappointment with New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio's decision to continue his pattern of placing close supporters in top administration positions, even when their qualifications did not match the job requirements. The latest example was his appointment of a chief administrative officer with little, if any, administrative experience.
Mayor Finizio can make these choices because the City Council has no authority when it comes to mayoral appointments. That has to change. Interestingly, the mayor appears to agree.
"The charter … gives all authority to the mayor," Mayor Finizio said during his recent visit with the Editorial Board. In running for office, he saw it as a flaw. "This is an exceptionally dangerous power that you are vesting in one individual," he recalled thinking. "Almost no one … in any constitutional executive position, has unilateral (appointing) authority."
"In future charter revisions, I think this is something that should be revisited," he continued.
Top mayoral appointments should require council approval. That would necessitate the mayor making a case for the qualifications of his or her appointees and provide the chance for the council to raise questions.
However, formation of a charter revision commission should await, at the least, the results of the 2015 city elections. With one term of the mayoral system to evaluate, a commission could tweak the charter to address shortcomings. The danger would be that following Mayor Finizio's often controversial term, some may attempt to so weaken the position that the mayor could not be an effective leader.
In the meantime, Mayor Finizio might take note that though the charter does not require him to run appointments by the council, he still could, seeking its advice and consent in a show of goodwill.
The mayor, however, said that while the appointment approach might be flawed, it has served him well in allowing him to pick loyal, community-minded people to help turn the city in the right direction.
In running, he said, "it was my fundamental belief that the political establishment in New London had sunk the town and that they were in it for their own self-interests." As mayor, he expected to have to, "absolutely walk through fire to get anything accomplished."
That us-against-them mindset has guided his appointments.
The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.