Derby’s Board of Aldermen got a new member Thursday, while Valley Indy readers complained about the decision to replace Anthony DeFala Sr. as Derby Public Works Director.
Evelyn Browning was chosen unanimously by the board’s Republicans to replace James Petrino.
Petrino was elected Nov. 7 to represent but resigned shortly after being sworn in and is now the commissioner of the Derby Fire Department.
The board held a special meeting Thursday during which its GOP contingent — the First Ward’s Bev Moran and the Third Ward’s Charles Sampson, Louis Oliwa, and Jim DiMartino — caucused in a side room for about a minute to discuss who would replace Petrino.
After they emerged Sampson, who is the board’s president, said they had unanimously chosen Browning, who was the next highest Republican vote-getter in the Second Ward after Petrino in last month’s election.
Mayor Rich Dziekan then swore Browning into office and she took a seat at the Aldermen’s meeting table.
A Shelton native, Browning has been the president of the Catholic War Veterans Auxiliary for about 15 years, and is also a member of the Derby-Shelton Memorial Day Parade Committee.
She said she looks forward to serving on the board.
“I just want to help and be a productive citizen,” she said.
No Replacement Named For DeFala
Thursday’s special meeting also featured an appearance by Dziekan’s predecessor, Anita Dugatto.
The former mayor was the only person to speak during the meeting’s public portion.
Dugatto brought up upcoming replacement of Anthony DeFala, who held the post of Director of Public Works under her administration but was told Wednesday he would be replaced.
News of DeFala’s departure prompted more than two dozen sympathetic comments under a Valley Indy story on the issue.
For example, DeFala’s son, also named Anthony, said “the news that a new commissioner is to be appointed came as a shock to us, and based on the posts, calls and text messages it was shocking to the majority of the community.”
“I am extremely proud of my father for his success bettering this city the last 4 years,” he said. “Dad you have set the bar extremely high for your successor.”
Walt Mayhew, a pastor and former Alderman, said, “Thanks Anthony for doing a wonderful job! Streets and parks were always well maintained. I also enjoyed work with you on our community events.”
In Derby, incoming mayors often replace the DPW director. That practice should stop, Rick Dunne, Derby resident and executive director of the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, posted online.
“The Public Works Director’s position should have long ago been changed from a patronage job to a permanent civil service position. These two actions are long overdue; I hope the Board of Aldermen gets on the stick and makes these changes pronto,” Dunne wrote. “Despite misinformation to the contrary, these actions do not require Charter Revision – the BOA can make both changes in 30 days by simple amendment of ordinances.”
Click the image below to read all the comments posted by readers.
Dugatto echoed those sentiments at Thursday’s meeting.
“I just want to say as a (servant) to the city the public works director was an asset to the city for all the department heads and all the authorities,” Dugatto said. “Your appointment is going to have to fill big shoes.”
After Thursday’s meeting Dziekan agreed that DeFala did a good job, but pointed out new mayors replacing the head of the public works department is something of a tradition locally.
DeFala was appointed by Dugatto when she took the mayor’s office four years ago, replacing Ron Culmo, who held the post under Anthony Staffieri.
“I know him personally, he’s a good guy,” Dziekan said of DeFala. “He did a good a good job here. My direction, where I want to bring the city, I just want to bring somebody else in.”
He said he does have a specific candidate in mind to replace DeFala. An announcement could be made Friday.
“I’m just waiting, if everything lines up tomorrow with his job I can hopefully make the announcement tomorrow,” Dziekan said.
Dugatto also asked a question about several waivers approved during a special meeting after Dziekan’s inauguration allowing people who collect paychecks from the city to also serve as elected officials.
The city’s charter requires the waivers to be by a “unanimous vote of the Board of Aldermen.”
Dugatto said that by definition the board has nine members, but only eight were present to vote at the special meeting.
“I just wanted to put that on record,” Dugatto said.
The city’s corporation counsel, Vincent Marino, said his legal opinion is that a unanimous vote was required of the board members present at the meeting, not every member elected to the board.