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Bucolic Brookfield Reveals Seamy Sides

If you asked people to name the most dysfunctional town in Connecticut — assuming you could find anybody who even cared about that question — the largest number of people would say East Haven, but keep an eye on Brookfield, an up-and-comer.

Brookfield has two different newly elected officials who, within weeks of their victories, have raised questions about their fitness for office.

I feel sorry for the first selectman-elect of Brookfield, Republican Bill Tinsley, who needs to catch a break. After Tinsley won the office — using a revolutionary strategy of vowing to keep property taxes down — details surfaced about his bankruptcy and an arrest in Vermont for petty larceny and embezzlement.

With debts of $775,000, Tinsley filed for bankruptcy last June. The arrest was for allegedly stealing $500 from a Ludlow craft beer store where he had a part-time job. He announced plans to plead no-contest to a misdemeanor and get the felony charge dropped. He denies his guilt.

I watched Tinsley's online commercials — what am I doing with my life? — and he seems like a pleasant enough fellow. I say cut him a little slack, provided he agrees to stop taking part-time jobs in other states. The first selectman job in Brookfield pays around $77,000 a year. It could be just the thing he needs to get back on his feet.

I'm not so sure about Gregory Beck, newly elected Brookfield Board of Education member. On the Facebook comment thread of a Parch.com story about "26 Days of Kindness" in the bordering town of Newtown, Beck wrote "I shall buy my friends who are gun enthusiasts a box of ammunition for days 1-26.''

The use of "shall" was nice, but this comment was in every other possible way abhorrent, to the point of suggesting a detachment from reality. Even the Brookfield Republican Town Committee, Beck's own party, called for his resignation, if that's the right term for the departure of an official who hasn't even been sworn in yet.

Beck himself said his comments were "insensitive and indefensible." He does not intend to step down. In his prepared apology he says: "I know that learning from mistakes make us better people and I have already learned much from this one." OK, learn something else. "Learning" is the subject of that dependent clause, so the verb should be "makes." I hate to be picky, but you are on the board of education, for the time being.

Beck wrote, "…it was not apparent to me that this comment would be seen as an insensitive post." Of course not, but that simply restates the salient question: To what sort of person is this not obvious?

Political apologies in Brookfield are all the rage. Earlier in the campaign cycle, the departing First Selectman Bill Davidson (a Democrat) apologized for having "removed" (some might say "stolen") a Republican yard sign from a lawn not his own. Davidson said he was upset after a week in which his party's signs were stolen. He blamed his behavior on "my competitive nature, combined with a moment of stupidity."

People of Brookfield, what is going on in your nice little town?

Brookfield is the home of former Gov. M. Jodi Rell. I have always presumed Brookfield to be a most congenial spot because it was so difficult to get Rell to leave there and come to work in Hartford. Gene Sarazen lived in Brookfield too. He was 5 feet 5 and one of the greatest golfers in the world. He invented the modern sand wedge. Edna Ferber briefly lived in Brookfield and the town is believed to be the basis for her novel "American Beauty."

I mention these things because Brookfield needs its own day of kindness.

I also don't think Brookfield is — at least so far — as crazy as East Haven. On the same day Tinsley and Beck won, East Haven elected two Democrats, a mother and daughter, as councilwoman and town clerk. Two days later they announced they were switching to Republican. You know what that was? An average day in East Haven. It takes more than two political moles to cause a splash in that town.

So stay classy, Brookfield. You'll get through this.

Colin McEnroe appears from 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays on WNPR-FM (90.5) and blogs at http://courantblogs.com/colin-mcenroe/. He can be reached at Colin@wnpr.org.

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