Appeal for Donations in Lyme is Grift, Not Honest Electioneering

Credit: Robin Breeding


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To the Editor:

Since 2015, there has been only one contest in Lyme for the Select Board; in four other cases, the Select Board members themselves chose their successors rather than competed in honest elections. The DTC and RTC assist this practice through cross-endorsements or by not running candidates. Eventually—and twice since 2017—the First Selectman steps down during their term, allowing the remaining two members to elevate one of themselves and to appoint a wholly unelected third person to the board. Kristina White currently occupies that dubious position. All of this happens without the approval of voters, and holds true for the coming election. Indeed, voters cannot have a say because there simply is no contest during an election cycle, only a preselected group on the ballot.

The end result is that voters are removed from the process of choosing the town’s leaders. And that anti-democratic infection is spreading, as the DTC and RTC refuse to do their job and recruit candidates. In addition to the Select Board, there will be no competitive elections this year for Finance or for Planning and Zoning, two extremely important committees to determine the town’s future. In truth, there is only one election at all, for a seat on the Region 18 Board of Education, shared by Lyme and Old Lyme.

That fact is deceptively absent in an appeal for donations recently sent by the Lyme DTC, which reads:

Electing Democrats is of vital important this year in light of the local book-censorship efforts that have taken aim at our public libraries and could soon evolve to target our school libraries.

To counteract such efforts, we need your support to elect John Kiker to the Library Board of Directors and Gavin Lodge to the Board of Education. They will represent us well and work hard to protect the policies of our public and school libraries, as well as fight any attempts to institute book bans. They will help ensure these important boards reflect democratic values and practice the principles of good government.

The DTC seeks contributions up to $2000 on these grounds, aiming to reach $8K by mid-October.

What they conveniently do not mention is that there is no Republican running against Mr. Kiker for the Library Board. The seat is his; no contest will be had. In fact, there is a wholly vacant seat as I write these lines, and there will still be one after November. The request is simply grift.

And lying is not a democratic value or a principle of good government.

And let us get this straight: Democrat John Kiker plans to run against a non-existent opponent for the Library Board to protect its legitimacy from non-existent Republicans who threaten to ban books, but he is perfectly fine with an actual Republican as First Selectman—the town’s agent—and with serving as a loyal member of that Republican’s team? His inconsistency is mind-boggling, and if I were a Republican, I would challenge his obvious untrustworthiness. For that matter, how could anyone trust Mr. Kiker if he is so willing to play fast and loose with the facts to promote himself?

It is also interesting to see Mr. Kiker throw Herbert Ross under the bus now that it is profitable to do so. According to the DTC’s donation request, it seems that Mr. Ross is dead wrong about the town committees having no “major policy differences,” and instead a massive culture war is about to erupt in Lyme over book censorship. Perhaps Mr. Ross and I may finally agree, on the laughable nature of that imaginary scenario.

It is even more alarming to me—and I say this as a progressive—that Mr. Kiker, Mr. Lodge, and the DTC have decided to imply that the two-term incumbent Republican on the Board of Education, Mary Powell-St. Louis, intends to ban books in the public schools. I assume the RTC will once again roll over for that egregious mischaracterization as long as they can have First Selectman, but if they do, it is to the detriment of honesty in Lyme.

And this is not the first time that the DTC and Mr. Kiker—Steve Mattson’s apprentice in the anti-democratic scheme—have sold out others (especially outside of town) to falsely boost their image.

In May 2021, for example, the Lyme DTC expressed support with citizens who criticized the Old Lyme First and Second Selectmen (both Republicans) for refusing to adopt a declaration against racism as a public health crisis, as had been proposed by Old Lyme’s Third Selectwoman, the sole Democrat on that board.

And yet, despite being the First and Second Selectmen in Lyme, Mr. Mattson and Mr. Kiker (both Democrats) also did not adopt such a declaration when they had the chance. And as the minutes of the Lyme Board of Selectmen from February 1, 2021 clearly record, in response to advocates for a March for Justice, they promised to put an anti-racist resolution on the agenda of the Annual Town Meeting in May, but never did so.

I can only imagine the overdramatic exclamations the apologists will bark at anyone who calls out such dishonesty by the Lyme DTC and its members on the Select Board, but so be it. I want truthful people running the town committees and holding office, not self-serving proponents of a scheme that benefits the few at the expense of the many. Unfortunately, I suspect we citizens will have to wait a long time for answers, accountability, and honest elections instead of grift in Lyme.

Indeed, it is worth noticing who has not responded to these concerns in print: the chairs of the Lyme DTC and RTC, John Kiker and David Lahm; the Select Board—also John Kiker and David Lahm, and Kristina White; the chairwoman of the DTC nominating committee and her equivalent on the RTC; and the architect of the anti-democratic scheme, Steve Mattson. I welcome debate; I even sent my previous letter to the DTC seeking a public response. What is to be made of their deafening silence other than to see it as cowardice or acquiescence to my claim of a growing anti-democratic movement in Lyme?

Stephen Gencarella
Lyme, CT