Democrat Kelly Plunkett's appointment to the Youth Commission sparked debate before the Town Council narrowly approved it by a 5-4 vote on Monday night.
Several Republicans on the council praised Plunkett's volunteerism and service to the town, but expressed concern about the elected member of the Board of Education also being an appointed member of another town body.
"This appointment presents some difficulties to me," said Councilman Frank Lieto, a Republican. "There's a longstanding tradition in this town of not serving dual roles."
Lieto expressed his belief that Plunkett does a "fabulous" job on the Board of Education, but would have to recuse herself on some potential votes because of conflicts from serving on the Youth Commission.
"I will be voting against it for that reason," he said. "It's not because I think Ms. Plunkett wouldn't do a phenomenal job."
Councilman Tony Unger, a fellow Republican, agreed.
"Certainly there is no one more active in town than Ms. Plunkett, but I believe someone should serve one master not two, so I am not in favor of this appointment," Unger said.
Two other council Republicans, J.P. Sredzinski and Debra Dutches also opposed the appointment for the same reasons.
"I applaud her community service," Sredzinski said. "I would rather have her be an unbiased Board of Education member."
Dutches said, "Regretfully, I will probably not support this appointment. I have no doubt she would continue to be the worker bee that she is. Her volunteer work is unparalleled."
Dutches said she would rather Plunkett dedicate her time to being a Board of Education member.
Support from all three council Democrats and from two Republicans carried Plunkett's nomination.
Councilman Nick Kapoor, a Democrat, said he understood the longstanding tradition of people not serving dual roles, but noted that the procedure in the Town Charter worked in getting Plunkett's appointment to the council.
Kapoor praised Plunkett for her involvement with fundraising efforts for Project Warmth and with the Monroe Farmers Market. He said Plunkett would be "a phenomenal" member of the Youth Commission.
Raymond Knapp, another Democrat, also said he supported the appointment, adding that the town has a Board of Ethics if anything was ever to be done improperly.
Dee Dee Martin, a Democrat, said she believes Plunkett's experience in being on the Board of Education and on the Youth Commission would complement each other.
Town Council Chairwoman Enid Lipeles and Vice Chairwoman Deborah Heim, both Republicans, also expressed their support of Plunkett's appointment.
"I think she's an extremely smart woman and I can see her serving on any board," Lipeles said.
The appointment was approved 5-4 with Martin, Kapoor, Lipeles, Knapp and Heim in favor and Sredzinski, Unger, Lieto and Dutches in opposition.
In the second public comment session of the meeting, Plunkett thanked the council for approving her nomination and for the "graciousness" of those who voted against it. As a liaison on the Youth Commission Plunkett was unable to participate in votes.
"For two years this has been an open position and the commission can't approve minutes or programs," Plunkett said. "Thank you. I now have a voting voice."
Her term will end on Oct. 12,2013.
It's Bernie, not Bernice
Last year, Town Council members had a heated debate, mostly along party lines, before Democrat Domenic J. Paniccia's appointment to the Inland Wetlands Commission went down in a tie vote. But the council unanimously approved Paniccia's appointment to the Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday night without any discussion.
Bernie Sippin, a local businessman and philanthropist, was appointed as a Republican member of the Police Commission by a vote of 8-1 with Councilman Nick Kapoor the sole dissenter.
"My no vote was nothing against Mr. Sippin's merits," Kapoor said.
He said 10 to 15% of the police department's staff are women and that the town has had two CHRO complaints lodged against it from female officers in the past year. Though the new renovations are addressing the complaints, Kapoor said the complaints are still there.
"My vote was fully intended to express the fact that I have strong feelings that a woman should be on that board to communicate with the female members of the police force," Kapoor said.
Prior to the vote, both Martin and Knapp said they would support the appointment because of all that Sippin has done for the town, but added they would have preferred to appoint a woman.