The newest member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, Daniel Russo, wasted no time before making his ambitions clear at the Commission's first meeting since the election, "I nominate myself as chair." The Commission could not agree, and the meeting ended without a chair.
As written in the bylaws, the November meeting is for the election of officers. Director of Planning Bill Warner presided over this process, and after the roll call, he recognized Commissioner Catherine Johnson. Johnson had barely started her first word when she was abruptly cut off by Russo, who asserted that, according to Roberts Rules of Order, nominations for chair should occur before any other business. Warner allowed Russo to proceed.
Russo thanked the public for electing him, and said that he had gotten multiple suggestions from the public that he should serve as chair of the Commission. After nominating himself, he expressed frustration at the partisanship on the Commission and frustration at the media, "I'm disappointed that the process has been politicized... I'm disappointed that The Middletown Eye published a list of criteria [for chairing the commission] from one member of the commission."
Russo, who is chair of the Democratic Town Committee, helped to stop an election of chair at the January 14th meeting, when he rendered the legal opinion that seated alternate members could not vote to elect officers (acting chair Pelletier refused to allow an election to proceed, following Russo's advice).
Several attempts to elect a chair last night also failed, with the 4 Democrats and the 3 Republicans each voting as a block (it takes 5 votes for the Commission to do anything). First, Les Adams ran against Russo, then Adams ran against Richard Pelletier, in each case deadlocking 3 to 4.
For vice-chair, Russo against Nicholas Fazzino, then Barbara Plum against Fazzino deadlocked. Finally, Richard Pelletier was elected as vice-chair, unanimously.
For secretary, James Fortuna against Johnson deadlocked 4 to 3.
There was then a parliamentary law squabble over whether it was possible to nominate Pelletier, the newly elected vice-chair, as a candidate for chair. The Republicans insisted that this could not be done before Pelletier submitted a written resignation to the Mayor, but since they could not find this clause in the bylaws, there was another election for chair, with the same outcome between Pelletier and Adams.
The Commission adjourned after agreeing that the election of chair and secretary would carry forward to the next meeting.
[Comment: I published excerpts from an interview with Commissioner Johnson on Thursday, I think it is important for the community to know the views and actions of elected officials and would be delighted to publish interviews with any other members of the Commission.]