Letter: First Selectman responds to article

To the editor,

I wish to address the one-sided and inaccurate reporting of the February Beacon Falls Board of Selectmen meeting. In the Feb. 17 article describing the appointment of a new member to the Board of Finance, Laraine Weschler did not list the new appointee’s qualifications until well into the article, but lies and innuendo filled the first-page column. The reporter attended the meeting, but much of her information came from a few highly partisan members of the Beacon Falls Democratic Town Committee who were present. I wish that more registered Democrats in town who care about the issues and not one-upmanship would become involved in the DTC and infuse it with fresh air and new blood.

Twice now, the DTC has plotted to slip appointments through the system, side-stepping proper procedure in an effort to hinder my leadership. I was elected First Selectman because the majority of voters in Beacon Falls trust me to lead, to bring this town into the 21st century, and to dispense of an old and worn culture of game playing.

I will now address the libelous twisting of the truth by Selectman Chris Bielik and DTC Chair Kathy Grace.

The Democrats ran a candidate for the Board of Finance who never attended a meeting. I called him to find out why I haven’t seen him, and he seemed surprised that I did not know that he had tendered a letter of resignation to Peter Betkoski, brother of the former Democratic First Selectman; Peter is not connected with either the Board of Finance or the Board of Selectman. I assumed that Selectman Bielik knew about the letter, but he said not a word. As First Selectman, it is essential that I am made aware of all board resignations as soon as possible.

Nonetheless, to give Mr. Bielik the benefit of doubt, I requested that the resignee send me a copy of his letter, which I then placed in Mr. Bielik’s mailbox; still no word.

I had received a letter of intent to run for a seat on the Board of Finance from Jack Levine, whom I have long desired to see on that board; his vast experience and his lack of partisanship make him the ideal candidate. The upcoming budget cycle will be rough, and I need the best qualified individuals I can get to serve on the board. I immediately sent Mr. Bielik the letter, placing it in his mailbox myself, affording him the professional courtesy that he has withheld from me from day one. Incredibly, Mr. Bielik never acknowledged receipt of either letter.

Still no word, until 6 p.m. the night of the meeting, when I was surprised by an email from Bielik regarding someone they had chosen (as in the December meeting when Bielik attempted a political maneuver with another Board of Finance appointment, just minutes before the meeting, by switching the name of a Democratic Town Committee-vetted candidate with that of Arthur Daigle; Jim Huk, the vetted candidate, was, however, subsequently elected).

I read their candidate’s strong qualifications, which I will remember as other openings appear on town boards, but Jack Levine has greater expertise in the area of budgets and projections, which are needed on the Board of Finance; the board elected Levine.

Mr. Bielik was furious and spoke several times at the meeting, railing against Levine’s appointment, insisting that the Democrats should select the new member. He spoke at length, but the only word I remember him uttering is “Democrat.” Apparently it is irrelevant to our minority member that Beacon Falls has been gifted with an individual of Jack Levine’s expertise in professional budgeting, who is willing to serve the town in a thankless role on the Board of Finance.

If Selectman Bielik and his party were so insistent on selecting the new member, when they were presented with Levine’s letter, they should have told me that they had someone else in mind. In town matters, I am open and I reveal everything I know as soon as I know it. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about the minority selectman and the chairman of the DTC. It is ironic that it is my actions that have been labeled “unethical.”

I am disappointed that the DTC chairman sees fit to trivialize my personal testimony of the calling to run for this office in the first place. Regarding a further quote in last week’s highly inaccurate article, I would be happy to explain the non-reappointment of the prior chairman to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and to discuss the clerk who really wielded the gavel on that commission.

Finally, in response to the accusation that I have an agenda, you bet I do. My agenda remains as ever, to put Beacon Falls first.

Gerry Smith

First Selectman, Beacon Falls