Former Smyrna Town Councilman Doug Chervenak criticizes Mayor Pat Stombaugh’s opposition to his committee appointments.
I recently had something happen to me which gave me reason to recall recent events in Smyrna politics. Ms. Pat Stombaugh ran for the position of Mayor for the Town of Smyrna with the refrain “Smyrna Does Deserve Better” and "I don't want people to have to be ashamed of our town." The residents of Smyrna agreed with Ms. Stombaugh and elected her to the position of Mayor. While I may not agree with her position on many issues, this public platform is not the place to voice those disagreements. What occurred recently, however, is much more concerning to me and the residents of the Town of Smyrna.
As a former member of Town Council, Chairperson of the Charter Review Committee and a member of the Library Committee since it was formed several years ago, I have regularly demonstrated my commitment to help Smyrna continue to be a great place to live, work, do business and raise a family.
During the May 5th, 2008 Town Council Meeting, I was nominated by a motion to be part of both the Town Charter Review Committee and the Library Committee. Each appointment was affirmed by a majority vote of the Council. At that time, Mayor Stombaugh voted no to the motions, but voiced no objections to my appointment. During the May 5th Council Meeting, other similar recommendations concerning other committee members were voted on and approved. Having received a letter last week appointing me to the Library Committee and the Charter Review Committee, I assumed these appointments were formalized and official.
On May 20th, I was told by Town staff that the Council had subsequently removed me from both committees at the request of Mayor Stombaugh. She apparently based her request on an interpretation of the Town Charter, which states, “It shall be the duty of the Mayor to preside at all meetings of the Town Council, to serve as the head of the Town government for all ceremonial purposes or for purposes of military law; to appoint committees, subject to council confirmation.” Since Mayor Stombaugh did not agree with the May 5th decision of the Town Council, I am out.
While I believe that my participation in these committees would be helpful and beneficial to the Town, I would accept the Mayor’s prerogative to appoint others to these positions with Council approval – if this current action of the Mayor did not appear to be capricious and possibly a violation of the Freedom of Information Act.
Mayor Stombaugh indicated her objections were related to me moving out of the community some time in the future. The irony in that statement is that I am being told by our Mayor, who does not own property in Smyrna and does not have a business in our town, that a person who does own property and has a business in town is not qualified to be on a Town committee. Also, there are other members of the Town’s committees who currently live outside of town. Again, I would welcome this discussion of my appointment’s merits by the light of day during public Council proceedings.
It is clear that our Mayor’s actions reflect a vindictive attitude toward me which discards the value of a Town resident with a knowledge and passion for the benefit of Smyrna. We, as most have been aware, have had our differences but they should not generate this type of behavior when it interferes with Town business. It clearly sends a message to our community, if you get on the wrong side of our Mayor, you are not able to contribute your time to betterment of our Town. We have had problems getting people to participate on committees this past year. Maybe now we have the reason. It is a shame that our Mayor, the person who is to represent our Town and bring consensus to our government, is allowing her personal feelings to affect her political decisions. To paraphrase another statement made in reference to another mayor, Smyrna does deserve better.