Council Elects Chairperson by Partyline Vote
At a Dec. 6 Town Council meeting, the members voted by party lines to elect Democrats Carrie Allen and Chris Passante as chairperson and vice chairperson for at least the next two years.
Dec. 6 marked the first meeting of the new iteration of the Town Council, which consists of Democrats Allen, Passante, Hank Teskey, and Brian Roccapriore, as well as Republicans Chris Aniskovich, Tom Hollinger, and Dennis Donovan.
As a first order of business, the new council voted by party lines to elect Allen as chairperson and Passante as vice chairperson. Although the meeting was mostly cordial between the members, the discussion around Allen’s election as chairperson got things off to a frosty start for the new council as the members had some pointed exchanges.
While Town Manager Karl Kilduff runs the town's day-to-day operations, the Town Council chairperson will fill the role of chief elected official and be the ceremonial leader of town. The main duties of the role include running the council meetings and voting to break a tie on any motions.
For the previous four years, Aniskovich served as the council's chairperson. Citing the work Aniskovich had done in the past and the juncture the town is in with a departing finance director, Donovan made a motion to keep Aniskovich as chairperson.
“I think with his experience and the way we are going at this particular moment that it's only fitting that we carry on with a more experienced chair,” Donovan said.
That motion was voted down, with only Donovan and Hollinger voting in favor.
By Roccapriore and Teskey winning on Election Day, the council was flipped from a Republican majority to a Democratic majority. Recognizing the shift in council majority, Hollinger motioned to elect Teskey chairman as he said he felt Teskey was the most qualified of the Democrats to lead the council.
That motion also failed by the same vote.
After Allen was nominated to be chairperson by Teskey, Hollinger asked Allen what she considered her qualification to be chairperson. Allen replied, “I have been here two years. I have put forward ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] from the first; I have worked with Chris [Aniskovich] initially on the budget to keep the mill rate flat for two years as opposed to what you claimed, and I have been pushing the reuse of Pierson and all three have been successful.”
That response provoked some pushback from the other board members. Hollinger responded that he hoped Allen would follow rules surrounding keeping what is discussed in executive sessions confidential, something she has been accused of violating by discussing specific potential reuses for the Pierson school that were meant to be kept behind closed doors for now. Allen has argued anything she said was public knowledge.
Hollinger added that he hoped she would follow the norms of how public hearings and workshops work by letting the public have its say at the hearings and the council members talking amongst themselves at the workshops.
“If you’ve, in fact, agreed that these are things you should be aware of, then at least we are getting there. I was very unhappy with the fact you didn’t have that knowledge before,” Hollinger said.
Aniskovich, meanwhile, said he was irked by Allen implying that she alone worked on the items she listed as accomplishments versus the council as a whole.
“This is about what we’ve done. To come out of the box and sit there and say you’ve pushed Pierson, and you’ve done that. Pierson was around well before you were here, and this council discussed Pierson while you were a member of the council, but to sit there and say you should be the chairman because you pushed Pierson that kind of rubs me the wrong way,” Aniskovich said.
He also said he hoped Allen would work in a bipartisan manner.
“I’m hoping that you will understand this is a council for the town of Clinton, and it’s not for the party. It’s for the town, it’s for the people of our town, and I hope you put them first as you take over this chairmanship.”
Allen argued she was trying to answer the question about her specific qualifications. When it came time to vote on the motion to elect her as chairman, the Democrats voted in favor, while Hollinger and Donovan voted against it.
Slightly later in the meeting, Allen accidentally skipped an agenda item and forgot to call for anyone opposed to a motion to vote. Donovan chastised her for those mistakes and for starting the chairmanship on the wrong foot.
”Let’s act civil to one another, just as we in the minority acted civil to you in the majority last time,” Allen said, to which Donovan remarked, “Sure you did.”
The exchanges between the members were commented upon during the visitor’s portion of the meeting by Cinzia Lettieri, who said she hoped the members “could have some sense of decorum” and called the behavior “embarrassing for the town.”
Allen reminded the council twice that meeting rules do not allow for personal attacks and said she hoped the council would be able to work together civilly.
Aniskovich was elected chairman of the first-ever Town Council in 2019 and then re-elected chair in 2021. Though the Republicans failed to keep their majority on the Town Council in 2023, Aniskovich won the most votes of any of the council members.
At the end of the previous Town Council meeting on Nov. 15, Aniskovich reflected on his time as chairperson. Aniskovich congratulated the election winners and noted that while each council member has certain areas they are passionate about, the council as a whole worked together and rarely had a contentious vote that required him to break a tie as chairperson.
“It shows the great work we’ve done here and that we’ve been able to set aside political affiliations and political agendas, personal agendas, and just work on behalf of the town and making sure and continuing to work in the best interests of the people of Clinton and that they know we may make some decisions they may not like, but at the end of the day we have good reasons and good explanations for the decisions that we’re making. I appreciate the time here, and I appreciate the support that we received here from the public and here on the council,” Aniskovich said at that meeting.
“We sit at this table and make the decisions we feel will best benefit the people of Clinton,” he continued.
At the meeting on Dec. 6, some residents turned out to thank Aniskovich for his time as chair. Jane Scully Welch said that while she’s nationally a Democratic voter, she wanted to thank Aniskovich, a Republican, for his work as council chairperson. Bruce Farmer wished the new council well and thanked Aniskovich for the work he did behind the scenes as chairperson.