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Letter: Beth Kerrigan Explains Resignation from West Hartford Town Council

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To the Editor:

Tonight I attended  my last Town Council meeting. I am stepping down due to the unresolved slanderous email that was sent to constituents about me, that claimed “there are some serious ethical and professional issues at the heart of this decision and involve staff and personal information that is not best discussed in the press or on social media” in respect to being denied Deputy Mayor.

When I first  read that statement, I immediately reached out to Superintendent Tom Moore, Police Chief Riddick, and Chief Priest as well as Town Manager Matt Hart, to find out what my ethical issues were. Being from Long Island I can be brusque, so I thought perhaps I had unintentionally insulted someone. I was assured by all parties that no ethical issues existed. I breathed a sigh of relief.

My certified letter to the person who accused me of ethical issues, asking for an explanation, was returned to me unopened.

Covid came and our focus was all consumed with the pandemic which was threatening lives and livelihoods. Thanks to the good work of staff who helped navigate us through a very scary and dangerous time.

I loved serving, and it was my hope, with the pandemic now under control, that we could address this serious accusation, resolve it, and put it behind us. Apparently that is not the case. This past week it became clear, after speaking with leadership, that the councilor who accused me feels there is no need to meet to address this harmful statement that calls into question my integrity. Instead, believing that there is an expiration date on being held accountable for baseless accusations.

I feel I have exhausted all possible avenues to bring this to a resolution. Allowing this to go unaddressed not only does harm to my hard earned reputation, but also gives a green light for this type of behavior to continue. During a conversation with leadership this past Tuesday my pleas to arrange a meeting at a mutually convenient time were denied. He has moved on. By nature I am not a quitter, but, my efforts have been futile.

I will miss the ceremonious tradition of the changing of the guard, when the newly elected slate take their seat at the table while those not returning to office are sent off with accolades, thank yous, and given an honorary town chair. I am saddened by this. I come from a family steeped in rituals. I fought for the ritual of marriage, so choosing not to be a part of this ceremony will be a real loss for me, but it is a necessary loss.

I have learned a lot in my three terms, six years, in politics. I have learned that when someone tells you they’ve “spit in your salad” sometimes it’s best to find another place to eat.

Though I have come to see first hand the role political paranoia plays in driving decisions and strategies I do not believe that the people, the voters, are well served by it.

Truth be told, had it not been for the strong support from the state’s most respected lawmakers for my second run in 2017, when I received the second highest votes, I would have been blocked out of the Deputy Mayor position then as well.

I received no direct criticism of the job I did as Deputy Mayor, even after directly soliciting feedback when I made the decision to run again this term. I had kept my end of the bargain.

I have learned that if we can’t move away from the war model of governing at the local level, (i.e., using terms like war chest and war room) there is no reason to believe it will happen on the national level. Win/win must replace win/lose if the people we represent stand to win at all. A good first start would be to have councilors of different parties sit next to each other instead of across from each other. We must pledge to keep each other honest after all, we are all on Team West Hartford.

It is important that the Council stay strong and continue to resist the temptation to steer away from time-tested traditions. Case in point, the approval of a never-before-given special tax treatment for developers Lex-LAZ (parking). We owe it to our constituents to make space and time for open, honest, robust discussions, void of retaliation, before we choose to veer from our proud history. Witnessing this special treatment, while Park and Oak Restaurant closed and other local businesses struggled with no special tax help, was painful. A second case in point is the Council’s random decision to deny the designation of Deputy Mayor to the second highest vote winner.

I will always be thankful to the adults that said to my young sons both in school and around town “what they did to your mom was wrong.” I am thankful to those who came up to me and said they were angry because they felt like their vote didn’t count, they felt dismissed.

It has been an honor to serve the residents of West Hartford. I am thankful to the 8,745 voters in 2019, 715 more than the term before and 295 more than the third-highest vote getter, who entrusted me to represent them. For those who didn’t vote for me, I hope I earned your respect over the years. We are fortunate to live in a town where so many give so much, where so many chose to get involved, giving their time and energy to make our town a more desirable  place to live.

I did my best to act in the best interest of the residents. I made mistakes, but I gave it my all. Most of all I am grateful for having been given the opportunity by the voters to serve them.

There’s always work to be done and I look forward to doing my part in a new and meaningful way.

Beth Kerrigan –  October 26, 2021

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