Town council meeting sees heated debate over Republican nominee

The Mansfield Town Council votes to not add Ric Hossack after a divisive debate and public comment section in Mansfield Town Hall on Tuesday evening. A Republican seat is open on the council after Charles J. Ausburger vacated his seat due to medical reasons. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus) 

Tuesday night’s Mansfield Town Council meeting was dominated by a heated discussion over the council’s controversial decision not to confirm the Republicans nominee to fill a vacant seat.

The council voted 6-2, to reject the motion to appoint Ric Hossack to fill a vacant Republican seat on the council left by Charles Ausburger upon retirement for ongoing health reasons last month.

The people of Mansfield have spoken, they’re the ones who put people on the council
— Mayor Paul Shapiro

Councilman David Freudmann said he was “disappointed” in the council’s decision to vote against the appointment.

“I don’t think it’s fair for you as the seven-member, supermajority party coalition to basically bully the minority party,” Freudmann said.

Democrats on the council cited Hossack’s disruptive temperament as the reason they felt he would not be well-suited to serve on the council.

“It has nothing to do with his political views,” Mayor Paul Shapiro said. “He cannot control his behavior to the minimum standard of decency we (adhere to on the council).”

Freudmann and Councilwoman Caitlin Briody, an independent, voted in favor of Freudmann’s motion, Councilman Bill Ryan abstained from the vote and all other councilmembers voted against it.

“Since I did not know the appointee personally, I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Briody said. “However, I believe that my colleagues' concerns were valid and I look forward to considering the next appointee.”

Hossack said he was glad Briody voted for his appointment.

“I’m a little overjoyed at that,” Hossack said. “At least somebody listened to what David says. None of the six democrats on the council will ever listen to him.”

Freudmann said he was skeptical of Briody’s motivation.

“Why she saw fit to second it… I’d like to think it was a sense of decency but maybe it was something else,” Freudmann said.

Hossack said he was not surprised by the result of the vote.

“It’s the way it is in Mansfield,” Hossack said. “It’s an oligarchy.”

Betty Wassmundt said the Democrats largely control town politics.

“As David tried to point out, the democrats are so powerful in this town, and the mayor in particular,” Wassman said. “He has so much authority he wants to pick the people he wants.”

At one point during the discussion of Hossack’s appointment, Shapiro emphasized the fact that Mansfield is an extremely Democratic town and said that in New Britain, where President Trump received only 28 percent of the vote in 2016, they have reelected a Republican mayor for multiple terms. At this point, Wassmundt stood up and objected that the council was violating Roberts’ Rules-of-Orders by not keeping the debate to the motion at hand.

The brief exchange between Wassmundt and Councilwoman Toni Moran, who served as chairperson of the meeting while Shapiro spoke, ended when Shapiro raised his voice to say he had been recognized by the chair and was speaking rightfully because he had been recognized by the chair.

“Yeah, (Hossack) has blown his top, certainly, but I did too,” Wassmundt said. “Because these people pretend to run a meeting according to Roberts’ Rules. What does Trump have to do with this. That’s when it really got to me.”

Before the motion to vote on this issue, many members of the public addressed the council on the matter of Hossack’s appointment and the Town Council’s not seconding the motion to put it to a vote at their last meeting.

“You do not have the right (Mr. Mayor) to snuff out diverse opinions because you don’t want to hear them and for the rest of the council members who followed your lead without a hint of dismay for the lack of democracy being practiced here is very disappointing to me,” said Vera Sterns Ward, the secretary of the Mansfield Republican Town Nomination Committee said.

Wassmundt said Hossack is only combative with the council because they have not treated him with respect, historically.  

“If you are civil and respectful to Ric, he will be civil and respectful to you,” Wassmundt said. “The republicans and Ric’s voters want someone to represent them who will not be intimidated by your tyranny.”

In addition to Mansfield community members, several members of the UConn College Republicans attended and spoke at the meeting at the request of the Mansfield Republican Town Committee Chairman, Al Fratoni, according to an email from the UConn College Republicans.

As David tried to point out, the democrats are so powerful in this town, and the mayor in particular. He has so much authority he wants to pick the people he wants.
— Betty Wassmundt

“(Hossack) had support by minority representation within the town thus I think it’s only moral and democratic he be appointed to the vacancy,” UConn College Republicans president Tim Sullivan said.

Local democrats also spoke in support of the council’s opposition to Hossack.  

“I think it is not only fitting, but mandatory that the town council to assert some advice and consent when a committee puts forward a nominee in this kind of situation,” Peter Millman said.

Millman described Ric’s public persona as “insulting, disparaging, ridiculing, hectoring and haranguing.”

Mansfield resident Betty Wassmundt interrupts Mayor Paul Shapiro during debate on whether or not to elect Ric Hossack on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Ben Wiles also supported the council’s objections to seating Hossack.

“Instead of blaming the majority for failing to acquiesce to a motion that the majority finds offensive, it seems to many, the way for the Republican Party to remedy the situation would be to support policies and candidates that appeal to a broader segment of our population or at least have as their object productive and well-reasoned debate,” Wiles said.

Ausburger urged the council to give Hossack a fair chance to serve.

“I think the conjecture that has been put out about Ric and the hysteria is a bit unfounded,” Ausburger said. “I think right now we just don’t know.”

Freudmann said he believes the Democrats objections to Hossack were unfounded.

“You are making an assumption about how we would behave, how he would comport himself, how he would serve the public…you don’t want to give him a chance and show what he can do,” Freudmann said.

While many republicans emphasized that Hossack had nearly won a seat, coming only six votes short of Freudmann in the last election, Councilman Peter Kochenburger said Hossack has lost multiple times.

“It’s not simply that Ric almost won…it’s the opposite, Ric has run three times, he has never won,” Kochenburger said. “So, if there is a message to what the voters of the town want—that’s it.”

Hossack said he does not know what the town Republicans will do now.

“I don’t think they’ll do anything,” Hossack said. “It’s a stalemate at this point. The democrats should not have the ability to decide Republican candidates, nominees or anything else but the way the council is composed they have to.”

Freudmann said that he hopes the republicans will not give into the democrats tacit demand to put up a nominee that is favored by the majority party.

“I don’t see the republicans nominating somebody else because that (sets) the precedent that (the council) won’t confirm until they get someone they like,” Freudmann said.  

Shapiro said he does not agree with the republican’s attitude that they have a right to choose which republicans sit on the council.

“The people of Mansfield have spoken, they’re the ones who put people on the council,” Shapiro said.


Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anna.aldrich@uconn.edu. She tweets @ZarraAnna.