Democratic Groton Town Council removes praise of Republican legislator from meeting minutes

Groton — The former Groton town mayor on Tuesday criticized the all-Democratic Town Council for amending the written record of a council meeting, which occurred before the current council took office, to remove a statement praising Republican State. Sen. Heather Somers.

At a meeting of the prior Town Council on Nov. 14, then Mayor Bruce Flax talked about the difficult budget year and added “the budget’s been passed from the state level, from what I call a Herculean effort from our state senator, Somers.” Flax said the town had received $1 million in PILOT money and $5 million that made Groton whole.

About one month later, newly elected Town Councilor Conrad Heede, who also serves as chairman of the Democratic Town Committee, made a motion to remove the remark by Flax from the November meeting minutes. The remarks were summarized in the minutes as Flax commenting that “efforts by Senator Somers have restored funding to Groton.”

Heede said he viewed it as a political statement. He said it was inappropriate to only point out one state legislator and not all three that represent the town. Heede then made a motion to strike the statement from the minutes. “My feeling is it’s inappropriate to use town documents to endorse a candidate,” Heede said.

The council voted 5-4 to amend the minutes and remove the statement about Somers. Heede, Mayor Patrice Granatosky and Councilors David Atwater, Rich Moravsik and Juliette Parker voted in favor of amending the minutes. Councilors Lian Obrey, Rita Schmidt, Rachael Franco and Joe Zeppieri voted against it.

“I just feel that although we may feel that was an inappropriate statement to make, I don’t think you can change the minutes because that is what happened,” Schmidt said.

On Tuesday, Flax showed up at the start of the meeting and said he didn’t appreciate the council removing what he said because they disagreed with it.

“Are you going to go through the meeting minutes of every meeting of the last couple years, and see where you don’t agree, or where you don’t think it’s correct, and correct it?” he said.

Former Republican Town Councilor Dean Antipas said he isn’t used to seeing councils go back that far to correct their own minutes, let alone the minutes of a prior body.

“This really looks like either you have too much time on your hands, or, or, it is a direct attempt in a re-election year, when Senator Somers is looking to get re-elected, to basically expunge her name,” Antipas said.

Councilor Obrey told Flax and Antipas that she questioned the vote at the time because most of the current councilors weren’t part of the meeting when the statement was made.

“I appreciate your comments and I think that maybe in the future there needs to be something a little differently worked out if you have a transfer (of power) because it just didn’t make sense,” she said.

Heede did not comment in response to Flax's and Antipas’ remarks.

Somers, reached after the meeting, said minutes should reflect what happens at a meeting. “I don’t need accolades from town councilors. I work for all the citizens of Groton,” she said. “However, I find the fact that a council would go back and change the minutes on words that were said unacceptable. I have never seen that in any of the boards or commissions I have served on.”

d.straszheim@theday.com

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