SOUTHINGTON - After an extended private debate and heated commentary, Deputy Town Manager and Town Attorney Mark Sciota has been appointed as Town Manager Gary Brumback’s successor in a 5 to 4 vote.
The meeting began with a lengthy, 30-minute conversation in executive session. However, ultimately, the decision was made via a narrow majority.
Councilors Victoria Triano, Michael Riccio, Paul Champagne, Tom Lombardi and Dawn Miceli voted in favor of Sciota, who will replace Brumback after he retires in February to be with his father in Florida.
“Folks have been writing me and their pleasure at nominating Mark Sciota far outweighed their concern about the process” said Triano, who said that Sciota’s resume is “his life” and that he was the best candidate for the job.
Councilors Ed Pocock, Cheryl Lounsbury, John Barry and Chris Palmieri opposed the nomination, wanting instead to go through an application and search process. They have accused the other councilors of meeting in secret to get a majority, which those in favor of Sciota denied.
“My stance on the town manager search has not changed; not in spite of the local candidate,” said Pocock. “If you’re going to have a professional town manager they should be put in professionally and not through a popularity contest. That’s what it has devolved into. What we see tonight is like a mayoral race and that scares me but the seeds have been planted. That has nothing to do with the man.”
Lounsbury said she was “devastated” about the process and that salary, what will happen with the deputy town manager position, have not been discussed.
“To cut out half the council was poor planning and poor government,” she said.
“Every council has the weight of making sure we have the best candidate for the job and we are fortunate to have Mark Sciota,” said Triano.
Palmieri said that the opposition was not about the person but the process. Barry seconded this sentiment.
“We’ve also got plenty of emails saying people were in favor of an open, transparent process,” said Barry.
Miceli said a search was held seven years ago to find a new town manager after John Weichsel retired and that Sciota and Brumback were the finalists. She said both have worked well together since and that the transition to Sciota will be “seamless” and will cost the community nothing.
Brumback declined to comment on the process but said he can’t possibly imagine a better person to replace him than Sciota.
Riccio said he believes in a “succession plan” and thanked Sciota for leaving his successful private practice to become a deputy town manager to begin with.
The council also held a moment of silence for Arthur Cyr, a resident who recently died of cancer and who had diligently attended every town meeting he could.
“I think a lot of people had a love/hate relationship with him,” said Riccio. “I was on the love side. He worked tirelessly out of a love for Southington and attended more meetings than the nine of us combined.”
Additionally, a group calling itself “Southington Women for Progress” presented the council with more than 100 petition signatures against the erecting of a Christopher Columbus monument outside the Municipal Center. The monument was paid for by the local Knights of Columbus, who raised more than $23,000 to create it.
The council already voted unanimously in favor of the project, which proponents said is a tribute to the town’s large Italian population and the discovery of America.
Opponents argued in their petition that Columbus spearheaded the trans-Atlantic slave trade and genocide of Native Americans. They argued that Columbus was not a hero.
Dory Caligini of Southington Women For Progress said she was concerned about what “light” the Southington community would be “cast in” with the monument “in this heated political climate.”
“This is not about erasing history but being responsible about who we choose to memorialize,” she said.
She suggested that the council be “creative” in finding a more “diverse” person to create a monument to.
“The discovery of America was one of world changing significance,” said Phil Mazzoti, Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, on behalf of Dick Fortunato of the Knights of Columbus, who first proposed and spearheaded the fundraising for the monument.
“It brought about the end of the Dark Ages and gave people the opportunity to work hard and raise families free of persecution in a resource rich land.”
The base of the monument already stands outside the municipal center and reads:
“To the courageous spirit and relentless voyage into the unknown of Christopher Columbus and his fleet on the 525th anniversary of the discovery of America. Dedicated Oct. 12, 2017.”
A bust of Columbus is planned to rest atop it upon completion.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at or .