Town Manager Search Resumes with New Committee
ROCKY HILL - The Town Council has formed a new search committee charged with recruiting a replacement for former Town Manager Guy Scaife, resetting the clock on a process that left off with a failed motion to appoint acting chief administrator and Finance Director John Mehr.

       The Committee will consist of Councilors Frank Szeps, Joe Kochanek, and Tony La Rosa.

       A week before, Town Council Republicans Szeps, Henry Vasel, Catherine Vargas, and Nadine Bell sent a letter to Mayor Claudia Baio, urging the process forward, while reiterating their commitment to the supermajority vote standard they believe should be required for the approval of a candidate.

       When the Council last met, the appointment of Mehr was rejected in a 4-4 tally, although it was due to Democratic Councilor William O’ Sullivan’s decision to recuse himself from the vote on the grounds that the Council as a whole had decided to revisit the issue of the Town Charter interpretation.

       Republicans claim that a previous 5-4 vote-taken weeks ago-in favor of Mehr’s appointment was insufficient, based on their reading of Section 501’s language regarding the 6-vote requirement spelled out under Town Manager appointments and dismissals.

       On the night of the first vote, Councilor O’Sullivan referred to what is known as the last antecedent rule, in suggesting that the section is vague as to whether the language regarding the mandated 6-votes “reaches back” to apply to Town Manager appointments-an interpretation echoed in an opinion later issued by Rome McGuigan Attorney John Bradley.

       But the call for a supermajority has come not only from Republican Councilors, but past Charter Revision Commission Chairs and members.

       Meanwhile, Mehr-who has filled both his default role as Finance Director and interim Town Manager throughout the search process-will continue to run the town as the Committee works.

       In their letter, the Republicans suggested considering a new interim Town Manager “to relieve the Finance Director’s workload so that he can focus on the 2017-2018 town budget.”

       The letter also asked Baio to revisit a town attorney issue that was last discussed before an October 17 failed motion to hire the firm Murtha Cullina. The letter implies that the matter is pending, but on Monday night, Baio said that the unsuccessful bid to appoint a new firm automatically means that the town retains current counsel Rome McGuigan-the former firm of Town Attorney Morris Borea-and suggested that the matter would not be discussed again.

       At the time, Council Democrats-particularly William O’Sullivan-spoke highly of Murtha Cullina, pointing to what they described as a wide range of expertise in litigation and municipal law, as well as a monthly retainer fee system that would allow town staff to freely reach out to them on various development matters, read the October 17 meeting minutes.

       Republicans countered that although they found Murtha Cullina to be an impressive candidate, concern lingered over ongoing matters being handled by Borea. They expressed a desire to keep Borea on those matters, to which Baio said that the new firm could be enlisted without replacing the town’s current representation on existing cases.

       Borea is partner at McGivney and Kluger-the other finalist and the firm endorsed by the Republicans. Szeps also noted that the firm was the lowest priced of the six interviewees, the minutes said.