Shelton RTC not seeking ‘yes men’

Mark Lauretti is all smiles after earning the Republican Town Committee's nod in seeking his 15th term as the city's mayor.

Mark Lauretti is all smiles after earning the Republican Town Committee's nod in seeking his 15th term as the city's mayor.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

The Shelton Republican Town Committee is looking for visionaries not “yes men,” according to one local GOP leader.

Eight Republicans have made known their intention to primary for a spot on November’s ballot only days after the RTC voted to select its slate on July 22 at City Hall. And in some instances those planning to primary have stated they were passed over for those more willing to follow Mayor Mark Lauretti’s lead.

“Mayor Lauretti is not interested in ‘yes’ persons but those who can understand new concepts and ideas and make them a reality,” said RTC Chair Anthony Simonetti.

The primary focus has been on the Board of Education, with incumbents Dr. Darlisa Ritter and Kathy Yolish joined on the ballot by Carl Rizzo, Jim Orazietti, Ben Perry, Don Stanziale, Ruth Parkins, John Fitzgerald and Amy Romano. Left off were present board Chair Mark Holden, Anne Gaydos and board Vice Chair Tom Minotti, all of whom are gathering signatures to force a primary.

In a Facebook post, Holden stated that Lauretti told many people he would refuse to run as a Republican if any of the three Republicans were renominated, and the RTC chair and Board of Aldermen member, Simonetti called the RTC members to tell them to support the mayor’s candidates “because we need to clean up and get our act together with the BOE.”

Gaydos put blame for being left off the RTC Steering Committee’s list of nominations squarely on the mayor.

“We’re not the rubber stampers for the mayor, and that has become so clear to me that’s what this is about,” added Gaydos. “I do what is right for the schools and the kids and that’s apparently a bad thing in (Lauretti’s) eyes and the RTC’s eyes. I do this for the kids, which is why I will push on and primary.”

Simonetti said the RTC placed those individuals on the Board of Education ballot that would be seeking “accountability from the school administrators that has been lacking in the past.

“Along with the newly appointed Finance Director Rick Belden, we hope to see this change and expect the new board members to be offered information on costs, spending, hiring, and contracts without delay,” said Simonetti, “and most importantly in advance of any deals being made and all Board of Education members will be treated fairly and without being blocked out or shunned by Board of Education members or the school administrators.”

Greg Tetro, who is gathering signatures to force a primary in the Board of Aldermen’s third ward, said the RTC was reacting to the 2017 election — when he joined others in campaigning for Planning & Zoning candidate Mark Widomski, who ended up winning election, replacing then-P&Z Chair Ruth Parkins.

“2017 was a big blip on the radar, which is why (Lauretti) packed the (RTC candidates) with his yes-men,” said Tetro. “I don’t disagree with the mayor on everything. I don’t dislike the mayor. But I don’t think he is always working in the best interest of the city and its residents.”

Karen Battistelli, present Board of Apportionment & Taxation chair, is seeking to primary for a place back on that board. The RTC Steering Committee left off Battistelli, and she says it was because she did not always vote the party line.

“Most significantly, I voted this year to increase the mill rate slightly above what (Lauretti) was already proposing,” said Battistelli, adding that she voted as she did to assist the Board of Education with their projected shortfall that would lead to layoffs.

Peter Squitieri, a longtime teacher and member of Save Our Shelton, alongside Tetro, said as a member of the RTC, he was unnerved by many committee members “not voting as they wanted to vote” in the July 22 caucus. He said he nominated Tetro from the floor during the third ward nomination process but many were “persuaded” to stay with the party line.

Simonetti said the RTC, with 68 of its 75 voting members present, chose candidates who will be diligent and careful to protect our city resources as they would their own.

“They are members of academia, business, both self-owned and large corporations who understand how important it is to be part of a team and not be led around as some board members have been in the past,” said Simonetti.

“They will be able to recognize concepts and more ways to properly utilize city resources and provide open communication and transparency to each board member and to the public,” added Simonetti. “They will get general direction from our RTC and, like every municipality does, rely on our mayor to guide the city in many ways.”

Simonetti said an example is the switch over to the new trash bins several years ago.

“(Lauretti) studied the concept and brought it to us fully vetted,” said Simonetti. “The results are hard to miss. We see more recycling, less trash spills from animals or the weather knocking over conventional trash barrels, reduced cost for picking up the refuge and a big win for the city.

“The city is also saving every year on bus contracts because we own the buses and don’t pay extra fees each year for them,” added Simonetti. “That’s about a $700,000 savings each year, and the Board of Aldermen will never request those funds be returned or eliminated from any of the budgets going forward.”