FAIRFIELD — The Board of Finance has always prided itself on its bipartisan nature, but an attempt by Democrats to inject that into the board’s leadership failed along party lines.
The finance board is one of the few not controlled by Democrats following the November municipal elections, with the GOP maintaining its six to three split.
When it came time Tuesday to elect the chairman, vice chairman, and secretary, Democrat Sheila Marmion nominated fellow Democrat John Mitola. Each time, however, the Republican member who held the position during the previous term was re-elected.
Thomas Flynn was again named chairman, and Jim Brown and Mary LeClerc voted vice chairman and secretary, respectively. Republicans voted for the GOP candidates, while the three Democrats voted for Mitola.
Marmion, in nominating Mitola first as chairman, said while she understands its usual for the party in the majority to hold the leadership positions, during times like this, “it’s even more critical we have someone with that level of experience working with the boards, working with the department heads.”
Prior to serving on the Board of Finance, Mitola was elected to the Representative Town Meeting as well as the Board of Education. While on the school board, he served as chairman.
“I also think it’s important we look at having a Democrat as chairman,” Marmion said. A Democrat has not lead the finance board since 2005. “I think it might be time for a new perspective, in the interest of being a truly bipartisan board, and out of respect for Mr. Mitola’s experience,” she said.
But Jim Walsh, in seconding Flynn’s nomination, said Flynn has done a great, and very balanced, job as chairman. “I think he’s guided us through some tough times and tough debates,” Walsh said.
When the attempt to install Mitola as chairman, Marmion again nominated him, this time for vice chairman, for the same reasons.
Walsh was the board member who seconded Brown to be re-elected vice chairman, stating that Brown has “been a steady hand at the wheel” when needed in Flynn’s absence. “I see no reason to change that,” he said.
Mitola’s name was once again put forward, unsuccessfully, as the board’s secretary.
Liz Zezima, in seconding Mitola’s nomination, said she was recommending him for a leadership position because “it’s really unusual, to my knowledge, to have so much bench depth in so many areas in one person.”
The board, however, voted for LeClerc, who Walsh said is in her third time and close to being the longest serving Board of Finance member ever. An accountant for 30 years, board member Chris DeWitt said based on LeClerc’s experience, “she’s almost over-qualified for the job.” At one point, he said, LeClerc did serve as the board’s vice chairman.