Another Finalist For Top Elections Post Is Out Of The Running

Another finalist for the job of top state elections watchdog has dropped out of the running because of the same issue that doomed former Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano's appointment last month to the post: a history of participation in partisan politics.

After seeing the State Elections Enforcement Commission back out of its Jan. 12 announcement that it would appoint Middletown's Republican ex-mayor as its $100,000-plus-per-year executive director and general counsel, a former Democratic mayor - from a different Connecticut municipality - has now withdrawn from consideration.

The Democrat's withdrawal, which came in an e-mail to the commission Wednesday night, apparently leaves only two of the four original finalists still in the running as the elections agency now prepares for a second attempt to fill its vacancy at the top.

The finalists were never formally identified, but sources have said there were two ex-mayors - Giuliano and the Democrat ex-mayor - along with two others who were not elected officials. A total of more than 30 had applied for the job late last year. The ex-Democratic mayor spoke to the Courant Wednesday on the condition that he not be identified, saying he did not want to jeopardize his current employment.

The Democrat had been out of political office for more than three years -- a cooling-off period that Democratic legislative leaders said was important when they criticized the planned hiring of Giuliano, who lost a Nov. 8 election bid for a fourth consecutive term. But the Democrat said despite the longer interval since his time as mayor, it was obvious to him after the Giuliano controversy that the commission's legislative overseers would never tolerate his hiring, either.

Vocal opposition from two influential Democratic legislative committee co-leaders caused the elections panel in recent weeks to back out of its previously-announced intention to hire Giuliano.

Those two committee co-chairs - Sen. Gayle S. Slossberg of Milford and Rep. Russ Morin of Wethersfield - said they wanted no "hint" of partisan politics in the official who enforces candidates' and office-holders' compliance with state election laws. They had cited a statute requiring a person to be "removed from partisan politics for three full years" before he or she can serve on the elections commission; they said that even though the law does not literally apply to the executive director's post, the principle is the same.

Giuliano said in an interview Monday that the election enforcement commission's chairman, Stephen Cashman, had told him that the panel now plans to re-advertise for applicants. However, the commission's spokesman, Joshua Foley, said Wednesday that it plans to select someone from the existing field of candidates, instead of re-advertising. It's not clear if the panel will consider anyone else from the field beyond the two remaining finalists.

The former Democratic mayor who withdrew Wednesday night said that he had not intended to re-apply if the job was re-advertised - but when he learned that the same pool of applicants would be used, he thought it best to simply withdraw.

Giuliano said Monday that the elections panel has surrendered its independence by letting the legislators bully it into reversing itself on his hiring.  Recalling that the commission had lauded his qualifications for the job in its Jan. 12 press release, Giuliano said the panel now will be "taking second-best," no matter whom it chooses from the original field.

Giuliano also said he hasn't ruled out the possibility of taking legal action over the commission's decision not to hire him - after it said in a Jan. 12 press release that it would appoint him because he "is the right guy for the job."

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