A fractured town council divided over process not person voted 5-4 Monday night to hire deputy town manager Mark Sciota as the next town manager, the third since the town adopted the town manager-council form of government in 1966.
Sciota, who also serves as town attorney and has been deputy town manager for 10 years, will start in January when current town manager Garry Brumback retires. The council had a 35-minute executive session prior to the hiring. The motion to hire Sciota sparked sharp comments by council members on both sides of the issue
The voting saw two of the six majority Republican join two of the three minority Democrats to oppose the hiring which each opponent said was not discussed sufficiently in public prior to Monday's vote. Some said the push to hire Sciota was basically a popularity-driven contest, with out a wide search for best choice.
Council chair Michael Riccio, a strong supporter of Sciota, said there were no private meetings. "It's all hogwash," he said on accusations of a secret process. He said Sciota, a town native, is well suited for the job, having been deputy under two managers.
Council members in favor of Sciota were Republicans Ricco, Thomas Lombardi, Victoria Triano, Paul Champagne and Democrat Dawn Miceli. Opposed were Republicans Cheryl Lounsbuery who is council vice-chair, Edward Pocock III and Democrats Christopher Palmieri and John Barry.
Pocock, a former council chair, said the choosing of a new town manager should be an open process with public discussions instead of the caucus meetings that led to the vote.
"I don't approve of the process," he said. " It has nothing to do with the man."
Triano, a former council chair, made the motion to hire Sciota, calling him "the best candidate, someone bright and smart who lives here and knows the town. This is no popularity contest."
Council members who spoke against the motion all made it clear they were upset by what they called the council's lack of public discussion about the choice.
"This has nothing to do about you Mark," Palmieri, the minority Democrat leader said. He criticized the council for having special meetings, caucuses, phone conferences prior to Monday's vote. Barry, the other Democrat who spoke against the hiring, said "It's not about Mark Sciota. It's about the process."
The supporters said the choice of town native Sciota made sense as he knows the government, the community and is well prepared to slip into the job, so it makes no sense to go on a costly, time-consuming hunt when a good pick is already working for the town.
Details of Sciota's contract, and what happens to the deputy job and town attorney post, remain unsettled. Lounsbury was upset by those unaswered issues and by a caucus-driven process she said cut out the Democrats.
Prior to the vote, five residents spoke about the town manager search. Four urged the council to hire Sciota because he knows the town, the government, local issues and concerns far better than anyone else they could find outside of town.
Stephanie Urillo, a former Republican council member, criticized her former colleagues for not having sn open search for a new town manager. She noted when Brumback was hired in 2011, it was after a nationwide search that drew 80 applicants.
"This should be an open process, not an executive session," she said. "If that process ends with the person being Mark Sciota, so be it."