Wednesday night the two democrat members of the appointed to the Board of Finance to fill a vacancy created by the departure of republican member Jennifer Aniskovich. Schwanfelder’s three-year term will expire July 31, 2015. Republican selectman did not vote in favor of the appointment and saw both his nominations fall silent to non-existent seconds by his selectmen counterparts.
The Branford is six-person committee and current members include Joseph Mooney (chair), Victor Cassella, Kenneth Kaminsky, Charles Shelton and Jeffrey Vailette. The First Selectman serves as an ex officio member of the BOF.
Cosgrove looked to , second selectman and , first selectman, to second a nomination for Aniskovich to be reappointed. After it was clear that she would not find a seat on the BOF again, Cosgrove nominated former selectman John Opie; his nomination did not receive a second either.
More than 30 supporters of Aniskovich turned out to the BOS meeting with hopes that her term would continue.
Republican Town Committee Chair spoke first on behalf of Aniskovich’s reappointment stating that he felt she was the right person for the job and “the right republican to be in the position.”
Cosgrove backed his nomination stating, “Things you hear all the time… the town should be run like a business and I don’t necessarily agree with that. Where Ms. Aniskovich has a very impressive resume… you know her involvement in non-profits and that’s my feeling. I feel the town should be run like a non-profit.” He continued, “A well-run non-profit’s [goal] is to increase the level and quality of services it offers to its clients with limited resources. I think Ms. Aniskovich brings that perspective to the board of finance and I think that’s what her value on that board is.”
Aniskovich earned the affection of many people impassioned by their desire to see the sound issue at remedied. to the town’s contingency fund back during the 2012-13 budget season for the school’s sound remediation. The request to amended the budget for that amount reached a stalemate back in the spring where First Selectman Anthony “Unk” DaRos had to cast the tie-breaking vote; he turned down her suggested request.
Supporters of the WIS sound attenuation, , both spoke before the BOS at Wednesday’s meeting.
Ross stated, “This isn’t a political plea. I am actually a registered democrat but I feel very strongly about Walsh soundproofing and Ms. Aniskovich really supported us on that. I think she’s very well qualified to be on the board of finance.”
Later Cipriano echoed Ross’ desire to have the students of Branford in mind. “Jennifer, in my opinion, is the most intelligent person on the board of finance right now. She is the most articulate and as a parent in town, she has been strong enough to speak up for the kids in this town and really try to help the situation at Walsh. As a Branford resident and as a parent in Branford, that is what we need.”
Additional support for Aniskovich came from some who believe she should be reappointed because of gender as she represents female voters in Branford.
Republican Town Committee member Pat Santoro stated, “How are you going to explain to women taxpayers that they have no representation on the Board of Finance when they should have a degree of representation?”
Selectman Campbell noted to the group that the town has only had two female BOF members in its history of service. To the taxpayers, Campbell said, “I am going to explain that currently there are no females on the board.”
Judy Miller, who called herself, “an ordinary citizen,” said of Santoro’s comment, “I’m sure she speaks well but she doesn’t speak for all the women of Branford. I don’t want representation on the basis of gender. I want representation on the basis of quality.”
Marc Riccio, vice chair of the RTC and sixth district RTM member said he had one question for the BOS. “What makes her not qualified to sit on that board,” he asked?
“To answer your question,” Campbell responded, “there is no part of her resume that makes her unqualified.”
It’s accepted that Aniskovich’s failure to be reappointed to the board was largely because some felt she politicized the budget process. Kyle Nelson, member of RTC and member of RTC nominating committee, said, “It was stated by Mr. Campbell that the reason for non-reappointment was because she made the board “political.” By nature of the beast, that board is political: three republicans and three democrats. Do you mean to imply that all six individuals who voted three-for and three-against, let’s say the raise for Town Hall non-union employees were all acting political?”
During the budget process, a 2.9 percent salary increase was requested for all non-union Town Hall employees. Aniskovich suggested the increase be reduced to 2 percent; it was ultimately reduced to 2.5 percent. Aniskovich voted no for that raise on every line item.
Nelson said he supported Aniskovich because she did “not accept everything as verbatim; gospel from the administration.”
Later Cosgrove nominated John Opie, a former 12-year RTM member and 10-year BOS member, for the vacant position. Neither DaRos nor Campbell would second the nomination.
Aniskovich approached the BOS and stated: “I’d like to speak in favor of John’s nomination. I think if I can’t be on the board, I can think of nobody else better qualified than John to be there and doing it.”
Noting a second from the democrat BOS members was not to come, Aniskovich furthered, “It appears to me that this is in character with what this administration does. It appears that they have worked out a backroom deal. I think it’s a shame for the town of Branford and a shame for taxpayers.”
Noting Schwanfelder’s resume, which includes 30 years of service to the town, servitude on the RTM and nearly every one of its committees, as well as being a small business owner in town, Campbell stated he believed his nomination was the best for the vacant BOF position.
“No one,” said Campbell of Schwanfelder, “actually questions his credentials and no one actually questions his loyalty to the town.”
Schwanfelder is currently on the and will need to step down from that board before he can officially become a member of the BOF. Schwanfelder was not present at last week’s meeting.