COLCHESTER — The Republican Town Committee passed a vote of no confidence in First Selectman Andreas Bisbikos on Tuesday, citing his treatment of local residents, his perceived failure to follow through on campaign promises and his attempt to remove a book from the children’s section of the public library. Several other claims were voiced back and forth between town leaders.
Taras Rudko, chairman of the committee, in a statement sent to the Associated Press, wrote that the committee would no longer support Bisbikos since they felt he did not “reflect our values.”
“When a candidate fails to make good on their promises and/or fails in presenting himself/herself in a decorum that represents Republicans in a positive light, we have a problem. The only way that such a problem can be addressed post-election is holding that individual accountable for their actions,” the statement read.
The statement listed four major reasons for the vote of no confidence: Bisbikos’ failure to reinstate the Police Commission, his handling of the budget, his recent attempt to remove the book Who is RuPaul? from the children’s section of the public library without following established protocol, and his treatment of citizens — which, the statement claimed, involved leaking information to the public as a way to dissuade citizens from participating in public forums and to “shame” people.
Selectman Jason LaChapelle, a Republican, said he wasn’t surprised by the vote, and that he felt it mirrored what he’d been hearing from other Republicans in the town. He said that people in the Republican Town Committee had been “floating the idea” of a vote of no confidence for several months.
“I think it’s been a long time brewing, to be honest. As Vice Chairman of the Republican Town Committee … I get people reaching out to me — I don’t wanna say every day, but multiple times a week — with stuff like, ‘I can’t believe I voted for him. I regret that vote.’” LaChapelle said.
Bisbikos told CT Examiner that he believed the vote was an “orchestrated attack” set up by Rudko and LaChapelle.
“The reality is that we have certain members in the Republican Town committee that, ever since I was elected, expected me to be a puppet and a figurehead and do their bidding instead of doing what’s best for the town,” he said.
“I have many knives sticking out of me from people that I thought were my friends,” he added.
In response to the committee’s specific complaints, Bisbikos said that the Police Commission had been an “absolute failure” and that the town was creating a Public Safety Committee made up of first responders as an experiment. Bisbikos said that his intention with the library book had not been to “ban” it, but to place it in a different section of the library. He also said that the budget was “fiscally conservative” and that the additional $900,000 generated in revenue this year indicated that businesses were coming into the town. He said that under his administration, the mill rate had dropped “significantly.”
Regarding interactions with town residents, Bisbikos said everyone was welcome to attend town meetings and bring their concerns. He accused LaChapelle of putting “inflammatory information” on social media, which he sometimes felt he needed to “push back on.”
At the RTC meeting, members spoke both in favor and against the motion, according to LaChapelle. He said that those against the vote of no confidence argued that they should continue to show their support for Bisbikos, a fellow Republican, and that he was simply new and making mistakes. Those in favor of the vote, he said, argued that they had tried to talk with Bisbikos without success, and that it was time to distance themselves from him.
Selectwoman Deborah Bates, a Republican who was not present at the meeting, told CT Examiner that she didn’t agree with the vote of no confidence.
“I don’t think that that was the place and time for it,” she said.
Bates said she believed the question of whether to remove the library book from the children’s section should have been left in the hands of the library, according to current policy. She said she felt the budget needed to pass so that the town’s bond rating wouldn’t be put in jeopardy. She also said she felt that social media wasn’t the appropriate platform to publish information regarding elected officials.
Both Bates and Bisbikos told CT Examiner that they believed the vote had been set up in advance, something that Rudko denied. Bates said the members were informed of the meeting at the last minute, and Bisbikos said there were members who couldn’t make it or were on vacation.
But LaChapelle and Rudko said it was a standing monthly meeting. LaChapelle said that while the agenda went out later than usual because of the holiday weekend, about half the members of the RTC were in attendance at the meeting, which he said was “about standard.” The vote, he said, was not on the agenda, and was taken on generic index cards.
The vote of no confidence passed 15-10.
While the motion is “purely symbolic” — the Republican Town Committee has no power to remove Bisbikos from office — LaChapelle said the vote shows that the Republicans have heard the townspeople who are unhappy with Bisbikos’ conduct.
“It is just a symbolic gesture to say, ‘Hey, look, we recognize people are unhappy with the job he’s doing, the way he’s conducting himself,’” said LaChapelle. “‘We, too, are unhappy. And we are putting on the record that we are unhappy.’”
But Bisbikos countered that if the entirety of the committee had been present, the vote would have gone differently.
“I strongly believe that at the next RTC meeting, there will be another vote, and the vote will say that there is no vote of confidence for Mr. LaChapelle and Mr. Rudko,” said Bisbikos.