Show respect

FI-EditorialGreenwich is a town that depends on its volunteers filling vital positions in government providing oversight and review. So it’s imperative that those willing to serve be treated with the respect they deserve.

That’s why it’s aggravating to again be drawn into a dispute over whether longtime resident Gary Dell’Abate deserves to be on the town’s Board of Parks and Recreation. This all should have been settled three years ago when Mr. Dell’Abate was first nominated and several members of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) voiced their concerns, not about Mr. Dell’Abate’s history as a volunteer and coach (as well as a town parent) but because of what he does for a living.

You see, Mr. Dell’Abate is best known for his role producing the Howard Stern Show, a job that has earned him the infamous radio name of “Bababooey” and placed him front and center on Mr. Stern’s often provocative show. Heavens to Betsy, RTM members seemed to say as they prepared to swoon onto their fainting couches. We can’t have someone like that on a town board. Why, he will mock our sensitive town residents on the air. All of Greenwich’s proud traditions will become radio fodder for these filthy comedians.

Of course, none of that happened. It’s been a very quiet and productive three years for Mr. Dell’Abate, who has been an active and engaged board member on issues like town fields and the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center. This isn’t  a surprise, considering Mr. Dell’Abate has long been a contributing citizen in town, giving his time as a volunteer to everything from youth sports leagues to the Greenwich Town Party to leading a national AIDS charity and speaking at area schools.

So why are we having this conversation again? Because at least week’s RTM Appointments Committee meeting, one member, Wilma Nacinovich, decided to take the floor during a question-and-answer portion of the meeting and voice her objection to Mr. Dell’Abate’s role on the Stern show. What exactly spurred this is uncertain, but it was out of line.

Let’s be clear. No one is saying Ms. Nacinovich has to vote for Mr. Dell’Abate. She doesn’t have to like him and she doesn’t have to approve his nomination. No one should automatically expect unanimous approval, and dissenting views should always be heard. But that’s not what’s happening here. Her objections are entirely of a personal nature with no basis in Mr. Dell’Abate’s performance as a member of the board, which has been soundly praised.

This goes beyond Mr. Dell’Abate’s nomination. He will be approved Monday night by the full RTM, and he deserves to be. But the larger issue is how nominees are treated. What kind of scrutiny is fair? Greenwich prides itself on having talented volunteers because this is a community of people eager to serve. They should be treated with respect. That doesn’t mean not having a fair evaluations, but it does mean not turning nominations into personal struggles that exhaust or embarrass people volunteering their time.

The alarm bells on this were sounded weeks ago by Leslie Lee, former Selectmen’s Nominations and Advisory Committee (SNAC) chairman, and the Board of Selectmen echoed them after this issue with Mr. Dell’Abate. How can we attract the best when a few RTM members can make this a miserable process? If one objects to radio humor, then do we object to the nominee who is gay or divorced or had any kind of past personal struggle? Where is the line drawn when objections are entirely personal?

This is something the RTM leadership must focus on, no matter what happens with Mr. Dell’Abate’s nomination.

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