New WCCOG executive director resigns

At the end of the first meeting of the new Western CT Council of Governments (WCCOG) attended by newly hired Executive Director Craig Leiner, Mr. Leiner resigned.

Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, treasurer of WCCOG, said Mr. Leiner sat through the legislative agenda meeting on Dec. 11, and then gave his notice. His reason? He believes the state-mandated merger of the South Western Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA), to which Wilton belonged, and the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials (HVCEO) into the single council of governments was a bad idea.

After being hired in October at a salary of $135,000, Mr. Leiner had spent the next few weeks meeting with the chief elected officials of the 18 municipalities that make up WCCOG. According to Ms. Weinstein, “he said ... he felt none of us were really in favor of this merger and we all had differing views. And so, he decided it’s not a good idea and so he can’t support it.”

Over the course of the last two years, most town leaders have, in fact, expressed misgivings about creating a larger regional planning group, but the changes were required by the state, and so there was little choice.

“I think the job was not as easy as he thought it would be,” Ms. Weinstein said.

The COG accepted Mr. Leiner’s resignation, effective immediately.

Ms. Weinstein said the group is still moving forward with the merger of COG. The office administrators for SWRPA and HVCEO are still working to merge the administrative functions of the two groups, and now the chief elected officials are involved, too, at least until another executive director can be appointed.

“We’re working it out,” Ms. Weinstein said.

The good news, she added, is that when Mr. Leiner was appointed, it was a very close decision between him and another candidate — and the other candidate is still available. She expects another director to be named at WCCOG’s Jan. 22 meeting.