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Stonington - First Selectman Ed Haberek and Selectman George Crouse issued a statement Wednesday about their refusal to appoint veteran school board member Alisa Morrison to the K-12 school building committee.
Saying they "have tried to be gentlemen" about the school board's desire to have Morrison on the committee, the pair said they "do not believe Mrs. Morrison is the right person for this job."
While they said "excellent communication and interpersonal skills are vital" for the position and there is a "need to not disrupt the work of the K-12 Building Committee at a most critical time," the two men did not explain why they have a problem with appointing Morrison.
"It would be inappropriate, unproductive and not in our nature to malign an individual with bona fide reasons in the press," they wrote.
Haberek, Crouse and Morrison are all Democrats.
Morrison, who has been a civil engineer for 15 years, has worked o n municipal and school projects and also served on the Planning and Zoning Commission, Inland Wetlands Commission, and Athletic Fields Task Force. She has been critical of Haberek in the past, especially this winter when she criticized his Facebook page, which he had used for several years as both his personal page and to post official town information. Morrison and others said his page often includes inappropriate material, including images of scantily clad women.
At last week's Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectwoman Glee McAnanly made a motion to appoint Morrison, but neither Haberek or Crouse would second it, so the motion died. After the meeting, the two men refused to discuss why they did not want Morrison on the committee even though the school board said it endorsed her because of her "professional qualifications and expertise."
The committee is planning the renovation and expansion of the school district's elementary schools.
When it comes to special committees with representation from various boards, selectmen have typically appointed the members suggested by their respective boards without controversy.
Morrison has since challenged the two men to give a reason why they do not want her on the committee, saying residents deserve an explanation.
After learning of Haberek and Crouse's statement Wednesday, Morrison said she felt Haberek needs to defend his actions.
She pointed out that the school board twice voted unanimously to have her as its representative to the committee, not just based on "my professional and technical background, but also their confidence in my ability to act as a liaison between the K-12 Committee and BOE."
"Unfortunately, due to personal reasons, Mr. Haberek and Mr. Crouse chose not to respect the wishes of the Board of Education and to take it upon themselves to decide who the best BOE representative to this Committee should be," she said.
Haberek and Crouse said that when the school board first sent Morrison's name to them for consideration, they asked for two names. But the school board sent back just her name because it felt she is best qualified to represent it. The school board has not had a representative on the board since December.
They said the position is not technical one "but actually a liaison position intended to provide a reasonable and productive communication path between the two committees.
"Mrs. Morrison's education and experience, while impressive, are not critical to this liaison function; whereas excellent communication and interpersonal skills are vital," they wrote.
"Having worked with Mrs. Morrison over the years on the Democratic Town Committee and more recently on the Fields Task Force, and being mindful of the need to not disrupt the work of the K-12 Building Committee at a most critical time, George and I simply do not believe Mrs. Morrison is the right person for this job," the wrote, adding they "look forward to a new face with new ideas for this important committee."
The school board now has to decide whether to submit the name of a different member or stick with its recommendation of Morrison.
Selectman Crouse and I have tried to be gentlemen about the Board of Education's recommendation that Alisa Morrison be appointed to the K-12 Building Committee. When the Board sent her name over we went back and asked for two names. When the Board responded back with just her name, I put the recommendation on the agenda of the Selectmen's June 11thmeeting. When it came up, I called for a motion on her nomination. Selectman McAnanly made the motion but there was no Second. So her appointment died.
From the controversy she has stirred up, we conclude that Mrs. Morrison is not happy with this result and she demands we explain ourselves. This is somewhat unusual, but so is the failure of a recommendation made by another Board. So we will say this:
In our view, the Board of Education seat on the K-12 Building Committee is not a technical position; that role is filled by the Director of Public Works. The Board of Education seat is actually a liaison position intended to provide a reasonable and productive communication path between the two committees. Mrs. Morrison's education and experience, while impressive, are not critical to this liaison function; whereas excellent communication and interpersonal skills are vital.
Having worked with Mrs. Morrison over the years on the Democratic Town Committee and more recently on the Fields Task Force, and being mindful of the need to not disrupt the work of the K-12 Building Committee at a most critical time, George and I simply do not believe Mrs. Morrison is the right person for this job. It would be inappropriate, unproductive and not in our nature to malign an individual with bona fide reasons in the press. We look forward to a new face with new ideas for this important committee.
George and I both understand that the situation with the Elementary Schools is unacceptable and that Stonington must find an affordable long term solution that works for our entire community. To that end, we will move quickly to fill not just the Board of Education seat but the other two vacancies as well. And we will continue to support the Committee in its efforts going forward.
Edward Haberek Jr.