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On Cronyism and Apathy

Political patronage is what happens when voters don't pay attention.

We are in the middle of a very dangerous trend in Vernon.

The Town Administrator, the Director of Public Works, and the Executive Assistant to the Mayor have each held elected office in town.  Each was hired for their current position with no prior experience.

The Economic Development Coordinator and the new Zoning Enforcement Officer are clients of the Mayor.  Neither has prior experience.

The Chairman of the Republican Town Committee is our Town Attorney.  And without notice to the Planning & Zoning Commission, the Mayor has retained the law firm of a political crony (the soon-to-be-former Mayor of Manchester) to redraft our zoning regulations.

Look at the current roster of candidates for Town Council and Board of Education.  Many, too many, are the same names, moving from commission to commission as the deck get shuffled once again.  More and more, the Town Hall is becoming the clubhouse of an exclusive fraternity, whose members play war games against each other at the Town’s expense.

And now they are infiltrating the Town staff, taking over the very jobs that we depend upon to be carried out in a neutral and non-partisan manner.

None of this is a secret – all of these facts have been dutifully reported by the press.  So how did it happen?  It’s simple: we let it happen.

We’ve stopped paying attention.  Little more than a third of registered voters in Town voted in the last mayoral election.  There is no longer the annual public debate over the town budget that occurred through the referendum process – and this is thought to be a good thing.  And I’m finding more and more intelligent and thoughtful people in town that don’t even bother to follow the local news.

So as we immerse ourselves in the background noise of social media, as we press our noses against our blackberries and iPhones (I own one of each, by the way), as we obsess over trivial events that don’t concern us, we are losing control of our government.

We’ve let ourselves down.  And worse, we’ve let down many people with energy and enthusiasm and ideas that are being discouraged and penalized for not being part of the inner circle.  When these people finally lose their resolve, we may as well close up shop.

It’s time to hit the reset button, and to become re-engaged in the process of self-government.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Paul Carbone September 28, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Mr. Paterson, when we check the voter rolls for the past few elections and budget votes will we find you voting in all of them?
Gordon Paterson September 28, 2011 at 02:47 PM
That's a good question, Paul. Let me know what you find out.
Michael Winkler September 28, 2011 at 04:18 PM
The voters may think all politicians hire their friends. But no Republican or Democratic Mayor of Vernon ever did what this Mayor has done. Hopefully, the next mayor will return to merit hiring principles and we'll stop this trend before it becomes entrenched.
Sarah Harrigan September 28, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Mr. Paterson are you saying that you don't know if you voted in the past? Also you claim to be an independent voice which truly means you speak for one apart from others and not the majority (which is what this town needs). Isn't it true that you are registered as a Republican and not an independent which your campaign slogan eludes to?
Gordon Paterson September 28, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Sarah - I believe I voted in most if not all elections and referenda, but I'm honestly not sure. I assume someone will look it up. In any event, I accept my share of responsibility for the current state of affairs. My goal now is to do something about it. You're right, I am a registered Republican. I think it's important that people know that about me. But I'm not running with the support of either party in Vernon, so I'm presenting myself as an Independent candidate.
William Francis September 29, 2011 at 07:54 PM
Gee Gordon, by the sounds of your editorial, one would think you were running against Mayor McCoy!Besides, no laws were broken, nothing is illegal. If folks dont think this stuff happens all the time, ask Polly, Marie or Ellen if they have engaged political friends.
marie herbst September 30, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Mr. Francis, No administration,Republican or Democrat has ever appointed friends or clients to thie extent Mayor McCoy or the Republican council has. Further the appointees were not the most qualified for the jobs In fact on one appointee at least one Republican said no along with the minority. Is it illegal ,no. Is it proper or right and done using proper procedures for hiring? Look at those who applied for the positions and check their qualifications, You might see some highly qualified people that were passed over. To Mr.Patterson: The Republican Council members with the help of the Mayor broke the rules of the Council by cutting off debate about the budget No one was allowed to reopen any account as was the rule adopted by the full Council Please do not lump us all together. marie herbst marie herbst
Rachel Kloter Stansel September 30, 2011 at 08:30 PM
It is a sad commentary indeed when the fact "no laws were broken, nothing is illegal" is our criteria for what is okay. Actions and hiring practices that are unethical or even that give the appearance of being so are just not acceptable. I think we owe it to our families and our neighbors to expect a great deal more.
Mark Kalina October 01, 2011 at 01:12 AM
Marie Herbst said "No administration,Republican or Democrat has ever appointed friends or clients to thie extent Mayor McCoy or the Republican council has." I would like to see some hard numbers to back this assertion up- this administration in comparison to others in the past- as it stands you are providing only anecdotal evidence and human memory can be a frail thing. (not to mention it is political season again). My gut feeling is that Mayor McCoy is no better or worse than others.The mayor is the chief administrator of the town and he should have people working for him that he trusts and most importantly folks he can work with.
marie herbst October 02, 2011 at 10:48 PM
Mr.Kalina wrote and I reponnded via my e-mail address as requestted. Maybe he can share it with all of the readers marie herbst
Mark Kalina October 02, 2011 at 11:14 PM
Marie, I checked my email and spam filter and found nothing sent from you.
Robin October 03, 2011 at 05:07 PM
I will be so glad when we can move past the drama of the current administration. I look forward to hearing specifics what Mr. Paterson has planned for our town and residents, should he be elected mayor. I think it's time for some new viewpoints and ideas...and, I am glad to hear that there will be two (and possibly 3) mayoral candidate forums, so that the voters of Vernon can (finally) learn details of where each of the four candidates stand on the issues (and what the issues really are) and learn their plans for our town. I look forward to a time when we can finally know that a town employee has been hired because he or she is truly the most qualified for the job, and I look forward to the day when I don't have to even question these things.
Michael Winkler October 04, 2011 at 01:05 AM
The muckraking Journal Inquirer has been the self-appointed "watchdog" of Vernon politics over at least the last thirty-five years. How many articles can you find about former Vernon mayors who, when in office, hired party activists, friends, and people who owed them money to important managerial positions in town government? Answer: Zero. How many long-time Democrats or Republicans in Vernon can point to a Vernon mayor who hired the way the current mayor has? Answer: Zero. The "comfort" of a part-time mayor with a two-year term should be far less important than the most competent people doing the taxpayers' business over the long term.
Mark Kalina October 04, 2011 at 01:41 AM
Michael- how could you, as a Democrat hold the J.I. an esteemed member of the "fourth estate" with such low regard? "muckraking", "self appointed"? The J.I. may be the Democrats lapdog and favorite bird cage liner, but not a self appointed muckraker? Say it isn't so Michael. LOL Seriously, I rest my case, since I haven't seen any real "numbers", but merely assertions that any administration in this town is worse than any other with respect to it's hiring practices...
Bill Dauphin October 04, 2011 at 04:07 AM
Mark, I'm pretty sure Mike meant "muckraking" as a *compliment*, not an insult, to the JI: The wiki for that term says, in part, "After World War I, the term 'muckraker' was used to refer in a general sense for a writer who investigates and publishes truthful reports to perform an auditing or watchdog function. In contemporary use, the term describes either a journalist who writes in the adversarial or alternative tradition or a non-journalist whose purpose in publication is to advocate reform and change. Investigative journalists view the muckrakers as early influences and a continuation of watchdog journalism." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muckraker)
Mark Kalina October 04, 2011 at 12:29 PM
Bill, you just don't seem to get it... I guess my attempt at playful humor in the first paragraph went right over your head. Relax, don't be so serious and have an adult beverage of your choice... LOL
Benjamin Dover October 04, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Typical lies from Marie Herbst, is anyone surprised? Marie, I looked at the applications for all the people that applied for the Director of Public Works position and the Executive Assistant to the Mayor and Bob Kleinhans and Diane Wheelock are clearly the most qualified candidates for those jobs, hands down. If you weren't such a partisan hack, you'd agree too. Yes Gordon Parterson, the voters are indeed paying attention, fortunately not much of it to you.
Robin October 04, 2011 at 03:57 PM
Wow, can the "snarky" comments on here please be kept to a minumum? I thought the bickering was exactly what everyone wanted to avoid...and let's move forward so we can all work together for our town of Vernon and it's residents.
Michael Winkler October 04, 2011 at 06:08 PM
Publicly, I've had nothing but praise for the job Director Robert Kleinhans is doing at Public Works. But I did look at the applications of those who applied for the position and there was a candidate far better qualified than Mr. Kleinhans. If you looked only at the applications of those who were interviewed for the position you might say he was the best qualified. Which leaves us with the question, "Why was the most qualified applicant not interviewed?"
Mark Kalina October 05, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Michael, based on your glowing endorsement of Mr. Kleinhans, his choice as public works director was the right one. Why then are folks so upset? As it turns out it would appear the most capable person was hired for the job...
Michael Winkler October 05, 2011 at 09:07 PM
When DPW Director Robert Kleinhans does make the trip from Niantic to Vernon he does some good things. We'll never know how much Vernon's taxpayers lost because the most qualified applicant for the Director of DPW position couldn't get an interview.
meowkats4 October 06, 2011 at 01:45 PM
Michael does Vernon have a residency requirement for all Town Employees?
Christy Vale October 06, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Kathy: No
meowkats4 October 06, 2011 at 04:10 PM
So Michael are you telling us that Robert Kleinhans does not come to work everyday? Because he travels a long distance from Niantic to Vernon? (When DPW Director Robert Kleinhans does make the trip from Niantic to Vernon he does some good things "Quote of Michael Winkler")

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