New appointment process causes further debate

At their meeting June 20, selectmen fell to argument once again on the newly implemented town appointment process that involves the board interviewing all candidates for non-elected positions.

Second Selectman Michael Kaelin wants candidates to submit applications in writing, and he wants the partisan town committees to explain their recommendations of candidates, also in writing.

Why? So candidates can be screened. Selectmen have been starting meetings late to squeeze in interviews and their plate is growing fuller by the day.

“We may just save a lot of time, and it’s also fair,” Kaelin said, “because it’s a level playing field for everybody to do it that way, to get the submissions in writing first, meet and review all the candidates at the same time in the same format, and then decide to interview them if necessary.”

But First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice said the board should expect “anywhere from 15 to 20 applicants for the current vacancies,” and she doesn’t want any segment of that group to be turned away, not when they did all they were told by selectmen they needed to do.

“So would that be applied to this group [of current candidates], or is that something we set up for the future?” Selectman David Clune asked.

“I’m proposing it for this group, because … there’s going to be 10 people for five spots. I think it makes sense to look at their written submission before we spend the time to interview them,” Kaelin said.

“If somebody has gone through the process of meeting and interviewing with one of the parties, than I think they deserve from us an interview. Same thing — if somebody's done a petition and they’ve gotten 100 signatures and they put all that effort in, I think we owe them an interview,” Vanderslice said. “I am prepared to interview everybody.”

“I feel like we owe it to those people. We told the Republican and the Democratic town committees that we were going to treat everybody equally. If i’m the only one who does it, that’s fine,” she said.

Kaelin disagreed. He said the Board of Selectmen has bitten of more than it can chew, resulting in unfair treatment of the candidates.

“But Lynne, the problem with the interviews is we’re not treating everybody equally,” he said, “because we do two tonight, two on a Saturday, two at some other time, and we’re only giving them 15 minutes each. Whenever I’ve been on a search committee, working with professional search consultants, they always set it up so that whatever screen you have is the same for everybody that does it.”

“That’s fine; I don’t have a problem with that,” Vanderslice said. “I’m just saying I plan to interview everybody [who has already applied]. I think if you go through all the effort to get this far, you’re entitled to an interview. To turn people away without even meeting them, I’m just not comfortable with that.”

Information the board is seeking would include where candidates have lived for the last 10 years, what volunteer positions they’ve held over the course of those 10 years, and statements as to why they want to be appointed, and why they think they should be.

The compromise was that Vanderslice will request the desired information now, but will not use it to screen any candidate that has already applied to fill a vacancy.

“I will go back to the town committees and I will tell them that when they recommend somebody, this is the form that we would like to see filled out, these are the questions that we would like to have answered. If anybody comes through with a petition, I’ll ask them to provide that same documentation,” Vanderslice said.

“We’ll then distribute everything, and [selectmen] can look at it and decide if they want to come to an interview, but unless I know the person really well, I plan on interviewing everybody,” she said.