O’Hora’s New Canaan GOP Leadership is still ‘My Way or The Highway’

UPDATE 4.20.12: CT GOP Executive Director Brian Cafferelli wrote to former NCRTC executive Roy Abramowitz this week informing him the State Central GOP wasn’t going to form a dispute committee to investigate the methods O’Hora used to not fill a vacant RTC seat last month.Abramowitz had filed a complaint in March with State Central after O’Hora wouldn’t let RTC members vote on him filling the vacant seat. A former NCRTC member who had encouraged Abramowitz to file the complaint said upon reading Cafferelli’s letter the State GOP is understaffed these days and doesn’t have the bandwidth to deal with local RTC disputes. Abramowitz who was visibly dishearten by the lack of CT GOP action told other New Canaan Republicans in an email this week, “I now understand why the Democrats control this state. We have leadership without backbone upstate.” The outspoken former RTC treasure was voted to be a State GOP delegate last month and said he’ll continue to serve that role.

Original Text
The red-faced chairman of the New Canaan Republican Town Committee, James O’Hora, was re-elected unopposed last week. Apparently no one else would do the volunteer job which involves political hob-knobbing with other people’s money. O’Hora who was the subject of a campaign finance violation story I previously reported, showed he would continue the same style of leadership this term – which means making up rules to fit his agenda best.

After Wall Streeter Patrick Swearingen backed out of taking his new seat on the NCRTC, a week before confirmation, O’Hora was faced with his nemesis, RTC Treasurer Roy Abramowitz, being inline to fill the vacant seat. A notion O’Hora apparently couldn’t stomach because instead of following an election protocol he set precedent on; he just rallied his buddies (newly elected RTC members) to come up with a game plan to make sure Abramowitz wasn’t back on the RTC challenging the way he blew through about $80,000 in donated GOP funds. Why Swearingen suddenly bailed on the job using a year old Dodd-Frank conflict of interest excuse is kind of odd but maybe he just didn’t want to be part of O’Hora’s gavel slamming leadership.

The local paper got wind of the tussle and reported some of the facts around O’Hora’s move to allow Betty Lovastick to take the vacant sent because she was next in line from the January GOP caucus vote. But Lovastick apparently didn’t want to have anything to do with a RTC run by O’Hora and wouldn’t accept the seat. The next candidate with the highest votes after Lovastick was none other than Abramowitz.

Abramowitz, who knew O’Hora as gunning to keep him out of the RTC, attended the March 12th meeting as the Treasurer of the then-seated NCRTC to deliver his last executive spending report. The meeting was also a place where newly elected RTC members were suppose to be sworn in. But instead it turned into a pissing match of old v. new RTC members trying to determine how the vacant seat would be filled. What the local paper doesn’t come out and explain is O’Hora basically blew Abramowitz off as already being out of office. The Chairman did this when his nemesis tried to move through due process explaining why he should be next in line to take a seat on the new RTC pursuant to O’Hora’s own election protocol that he’d just established by letting Lovastick take the vacant seat. Once again the RTC Chairman wanted to write his own rules making sure his buddies on the new Town Committee would elect the replacement candidate. This magical interpretation of their bylaws suddenly sets up a committee of new RTC members to vote on the vacant seat; basically side-stepping the rest of the town Republicans who’d already voted for RTC members they wanted to represent them. O’Hora told the New Canaan Advertiser, “the new committee would be taking its time and interviewing candidates before voting to fill the seat.”

Which really means O’Hora will ignore the problem till no one is talking about it and then they can fill the seat with someone who’ll fall in line with the O’Hora agenda.

State Central Republican Committee executive Bob Lutts, their rules expert, did offer this detail about the process O’Hora would have to go through if he had moved forward placing Betty or Roy into the seat. “While they might have practiced this in the past there is no set rule on filling vacant seats with candidates who didn’t get the full confirmation votes from the last election. If O’Hora had moved forward with Betty or Roy he would still have to get the majority of the current members at the last RTC meeting to confirm one of them,” said Lutts.

Abramowitz told me he actually tried to call for that vote with the 8 old RTC members present but O’Hora started yelling there would be no vote at the meeting for the vacancy.

O’Hora did not respond for comment for this story.

The New Canaan Advertiser reporter Matt Dalen told Abramowitz he wanted to write ‘a fair piece’ about the vacancy and possible rule violations but I found it odd he didn’t source or call the State’s Republican expert on election law and RTC rules, Bob Lutts. Instead we saw some kind of ‘expert opinion’ from a trusts and estate lawyer, Bill Osterndorf, who’d just buddied-up to O’Hora and got Abramowitz former job as RTC Treasurer. It’s interesting to note O’Hora publicly supported Osterndorf when he ran and lost for probate judge in 2010. The rest of the New Canaan RTC actually didn’t want to publicly support one Republican against the other for probate judge and opposed giving money for an Ostrerndorf endorsement. A move, according to former RTC members, O’Hora was pissed off about.

Abramowitz isn’t the type of person to take much lying down. Republicans have told me it’s too bad there is so much ill will within GOP leadership but I also watched a few encourage Abramowitz to take this up the food chain and file a complaint with the State GOP. Unfortunately none of them would come on the record with their names to publicly denounce O’Hora’s railroading. So now an Article two Section 10 appeal was sent off last night by Abramowitz who now gets to wait and see if the Connecticut Republican State Central Committee takes this situation seriously — or just blows it off as local infighting by a bunch of puffy chest New Canaan egos .

In-kind donations, I previously reported were not properly accounted for under O’Hora’s last term, still haven’t been dealt with says Abramowitz. It will be interesting to see if the new Treasurer uses NCRTC money to make the donations right or follows O’Hora’s prior leadership and figures no one but the local Dems will complain about their consistent finance campaign violations. In addition to that we have a local paper, owned by the town’s Republican treasurer Hersam, that picks and chooses which facts to report—rarely holding New Canaan Republican’s accountable for any miss-conduct. Now if they wanted to step-up their reporting they could look into the current debate on how many of O’Hora’s Hartford cronies he’s trying to comp for the NCRTC’s main fundraising event, the Lincoln Dinner. A fundraiser that O’Hora has now turned into a retirement party for State Rep John Hetherington. I’d be asking why the fancy dinner ticket price went up from $125 to $150 – is Chairman O’Hora expecting wealthy New Canaan Republicans to cover the dinner’s funding shortfall? To me, it sounds like another plan to amp up O’Hora’s personal political piggy bank again, also known as the NCRTC budget.

Why Abramowitz still keeps coming back to the fight –attempting to make local spending fiscally responsible when some of his GOP peers just keep mudslinging his character is beyond me—but I’m sure more than a few New Canaanites seeing him publicly try to voice concerns about his own damn party think it sure is refreshing and fun to watch.

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Comments

  1. Good follow-up, Teri. Republicans are getting fed up with the bullying leadership and I bet contributions will suffer. There are multiple problems including a State GOP that doesn’t step in because “it’s just petty infighting” and would prefer the problem just go away as well as a timid press unwilling or incapable of asking tough questions. Are Republicans okay with having leaders that are so ethically questionable? Is Darien, for example, really stupid enough to elect a guy who has had problems with the SEC for violating insider trading laws and was banned for five years? Are these the people that should be the face of the party? it’s real interesting that it is both Hersam newspapers, New Canaan Advertiser and Darien Times, who have weak reporters and just let it all slide.

    If these guys are the best the Republican Party can do for their leaders, they deserve to be out in the cold in the upcoming elections.

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