Longtime Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman announced Monday she will resign from her position in response to a vote by the town’s Board of Selectmen last week to cut her salary by 35 percent in the middle of her term.
Glassman, a Democrat who has twice run for lieutenant governor and has served as president of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, called a press conference to say she would leave the post effective Jan. 2 after a total of almost 16 years in office.
The decision comes after a vote by the town’s Republican-controlled Board of Selectmen to cut her salary by 35 percent. In July, her salary would drop from about $114,000 to $75,000. The change, which also will reduce her retirement benefits, are based on recommendations from a consultant.
In a crowded conference room inside the Simsbury town offices, Glassman told reporters and supporters that the board’s decision to implement the pay cuts mid-term is potentially illegal and “a blatant violation of public trust.”
“The recent action of the Republican majority on the Board of Selectmen to cut my salary and impact my pension affects me personally and financially. What is most troubling is that the action the Republican board members took is a politically motivated abuse of power. It is a calculated step taken by the Republican Party that should trouble the people of Simsbury,” she said.
Glassman said she would not pursue legal action against the town.
During last week’s board of selectmen meeting, which can be viewed at SimsburyTV.org, the panel initially discussed implementing the salary cut at the start of the the term of whoever is elected to be the town’s next first selectman.
But some Republicans wrestled with the idea of paying Glassman at her current salary, in part for responsibilities that were being reassigned to other town employees.
“That job is being done by those other folks. So I struggled a lot with this. I just can’t — our fiduciary responsibility is to the town, whether it’s $16,000 or $6,000. I, in my heart, can’t justify spending money to do something twice when it’s being done once,” Deputy First Selectman Nancy Haase, a Republican, said.
Democratic Selectman Lisa Heavner protested during the meeting.
“You are within your rights. It’s certainly permitted by the charter, but I think this sends a terrible message for someone who runs,” she said. “Basically what it means, from this point forward someone who runs for office and wins has to have enough money to live without that salary to do this because that salary could be gone.”
Heavner said a Simsbury Republican majority once voted to give Republican First Selectman Tom Vincent a salary increase. Republicans on the board accused her of trying to make a political issue out of Glassman’s salary cut.
Haase said there were Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the salary increase for Vincent.
“Right now, in this very moment, the message and the discussion that we have is going to set the tone. And I think it’s our responsibility — right now — to watch very closely what we say,” Haase told Heavner.
Selectman Sean Askham, a Republican who voted against cutting Glassman’s salary in July, insisted it was not a political move. After Glassman recused herself, the vote was 3-2 — three Republicans against one Democrat and one Republican.
On Monday, Glassman insisted the cut was personal. She pointed out that her 2013 opponent, Haase, was among the selectmen to vote for the reduction.
Following Glassman’s press conference, the Republican selectmen said they were surprised and disappointed. They said the vote was not personally or politically motivated.
“I would say this is a sad day for the town,” Hasse said. “There’s much that we’ve accomplished together and this is a very sad day for our community.”
David Ryan, a Simsbury resident and Democrat, was among the onlookers at the press conference. He called the vote to reduce the salary “vindictive.” He said he did not believe the decision was made in an effort to save money for the town.
“The town is sitting on lots of cash. There’s no problem with the town and cash,” he said.
Asked what she planned to do after stepping down, Glassman said she did not yet know.
“You know of any job opportunities?” she asked.