Trumbull Democrats: “Herbst subverts the town charter”

Press release from the Trumbull Democratic Town Committee –

“Tim, we expected better,” Thornton says.

First Selectman Tim Herbst is violating the Town Charter and using the power of government to settle petty personal disputes, both real and imagined, by repeatedly rejecting Democratic candidates for boards and commissions, Trumbull Democrats said Tuesday.

Herbst last week rejected two Democratic nominees for a vacant Board of Finance alternate slot. Town Charter and state law require that no more than two of the three alternates on the board can be from the same party, meaning that the finance board vacancy must be filled by a Democrat or an unaffiliated voter.

“Tim promised a more transparent political process and an atmosphere of improved civility,” said Mary Beth Thornton, the 2011 Democratic candidate for first selectman. “Instead, in the three months since the election, we’ve seen the first selectman become more cavalier about the rights of the minority party. Indeed, as he consolidates power, he’s subverting the independent authority of the Town Council by not even allowing nominations to reach them for a vote.”

Chapter VII, Section 1, of the Town Charter places the power to appoint Board of Finance alternates in the hands of the Town Council.

Herbst’s latest rejections are part of a string that extends back several months. Astonishingly, he refused to allow the appointment of former First Selectman Ray Baldwin to the Police Commission. Baldwin, of course, is an attorney, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and served 14 years as a Trumbull police officer.

Longstanding tradition in Trumbull has been to give the political parties wide latitude in selecting candidates for seats granted to them under the minority representation laws. “In recent months,” Thornton said, “that has changed completely. We’ve pointed out before that the political culture in this town has become toxic under Tim Herbst. It’s become corrosive. This isn’t helping.”

Specifically, Herbst rejected a widely respected public servant, Lisa Valenti, who, ironically, was a vice chairwoman of Herbst’s own Republican Party as recently as three years ago. He also rejected the appointment of Kathleen McGannon, a former chairwoman of the finance board. In a letter to Democratic Town Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo, Herbst said Valenti made remarks in the past that led him to conclude that she “would have difficulty disregarding her personal feelings toward other board members.”

McGannon, Herbst added, has made statements that indicate she is not committed to working in a “civil or bipartisan manner. She has exhibited a level of rancor that I do not believe would serve the Board of Finance well,” he said.

Herbst is disregarding the fact that as chairwoman, McGannon passed multiple budgets with a three-three split in the finance board, thus demonstrating that she can work effectively in a bipartisan manner.

“Worst of all,” Thornton said, “Tim Herbst’s handpicked alternate for the Board of Finance, Cindy Penkoff—who was also his candidate for the Board of Education in 2011—is perhaps the worst offender in town. She called a member of the Board of Education a “bitch” on Facebook, and has engaged in the worst sort of uncivil and inflammatory name-calling in public forums for much of the past four years.

“Tim, we expected better,” Thornton said.

Vinti Singh