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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Marpe: Zappi Withdraws from Operations Post

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UPDATE After a barrage of criticism, Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe announced today that Bob Zappi, his former campaign manager and former Republican Town Committee (RTC) chair, has “withdrawn his name” as operations manager and transition official in the First Selectman’s Office.

WestportNow.com Image
Bob Zappi: “felt he could not make the contribution he wanted.”   Contributed photo

“Unfortunately, the appointment was viewed as partisan in nature, which was never the intention,” Marpe said in a statement issued by his office. Later, Zappi issued his own statement (text below), saying, “The outcry from the Democrats was predictable and expected. After all, it has been 20 years since a Republican was elected First Selectman. “

Marpe’s statement went on: “Given this perception, Bob felt that he could not make the contribution he wanted to both Westport and my administration. Therefore, he has chosen to withdraw. This action is a testament to Bob’s character and devotion to the Town of Westport.”

Marpe announced Zappi’s appointment last week as part of the reorganization of the First Selectman’s office following his assuming office on Nov. 18. (See WestportNow Nov. 22, 2013) He said Zappi would receive a $125,000 annual salary, which he said was “commensurate” with similar positions in other towns.

The appointment drew criticism in posts on WestportNow, several calling it “patronage” and a political “payoff.” They said it was unexpected from someone who had portrayed himself as leaving party politics behind as soon as his victory was confirmed.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Zappi has withdrawn his name from both (positions), effective immediately,” Marpe said.

He added: “In my enthusiasm to get going for Westport, I moved quickly. The opportunity to take advantage of Bob’s 30-year track record of helping Fortune 500 companies enhance their organization and operations was compelling.

“The transition from campaign mode to governing would have been seamless based on the trust, respect and success Bob demonstrated during my campaign. I chose Bob because of his proven abilities, knowledge of town government and the people who lead it.”

Marpe said he and Selectman Avi Kaner “ran on a promise of bi-partisan consensus, and we intend to fulfill that promise.

“Further reorganization will reflect that commitment. Our broad-based support during the recent campaign clearly demonstrated the desires of Westporters to put the town ahead of politics. We appreciate your continued support as we work together to move Westport forward.”
_______

Here is the text of Marpe’s announcement:

Last week, First Selectman Jim Marpe announced a reorganization of the First Selectman’s Office and transition led by Bob Zappi who would become Operations Manager. Unfortunately, Mr. Zappi has withdrawn his name from both, effective immediately.

“In my enthusiasm to get going for Westport, I moved quickly. The opportunity to take advantage of Bob’s 30 year track record of helping Fortune 500 companies enhance their organization and operations was compelling,” said Jim Marpe. “The transition from campaign mode to governing would have been seamless based on the trust, respect and success Bob demonstrated during my campaign. I chose Bob because of his proven abilities, knowledge of town government and the people who lead it.”

“Unfortunately, the appointment was viewed as partisan in nature, which was never the intention. Given this perception, Bob felt that he could not make the contribution he wanted to both Westport and my administration. Therefore, he has chosen to withdraw. This action is a testament to Bob’s character and devotion to the Town of Westport,” Jim continued.

“Avi and I ran on a promise of bi-partisan consensus, and we intend to fulfill that promise,” said Mr. Marpe. “Further reorganization will reflect that commitment. Our broad-based support during the recent campaign clearly demonstrated the desires of Westporters to put the town ahead of politics. We appreciate your continued support as we work together to move Westport forward,” said Jim.
______

Later, Zappi issued his own announcement. Here is the text:

Effective today I am withdrawing as the MarpeKaner transition leader and future Operations Manager for the Town of Westport.

When Jim Marpe asked me to be his Campaign Manager in September 2012, I agreed because of his reputation, interest in moving the town forward with real change and his leadership ability. He wanted to bring Westport Town Government proven organizational approaches demonstrated successfully every day in the private sector and in municipalities like New York City. 

Unfortunately, over the past few days, the discussion has been focused more on me rather than the benefits that this new leadership style would bring to you, Westport residents. This is misdirected, hence my withdrawal.

Proven ability to achieve results

Most organizations operate effectively with a manager who supports its leader and ensures that the agenda is implemented. Over the past year, I earned Jim’s trust and respect developing a campaign strategy based on Jim’s vision and highly effective messaging and implementation that resonated with Westporters, resulting in election victory. These attributes are precisely what a top town official should seek in the person he entrusts with implementing his agenda.

The outcry from the Democrats was predictable and expected. After all, it has been 20 years since a Republican was elected First Selectman. The Democrats have controlled all of the other elected boards for over 14 years. During the past 5 years, my leadership of the RTC has resulted in Republicans winning control of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Finance, and now, as Manager for MarpeKaner Campaign, the First Selectman’s Office. I believe competition is healthy and that two viable parties are better than one and that my contribution to the political process was positive for Westport.

Who decides what’s best for Westport?

Who decides what’s best for Westport? I say you do, and you did by voting Jim as your First Selectman. Let Jim lead the town in a leadership style that brought him much personal success. You will evaluate him based on the results, and if it doesn’t measure up, you can vote him out in four years.

Posted 11/26 at 01:52 PM


Comments:     Comment Policy

Jim Marpe you should know that not only did this appointment of Bob Zappi appear to be partisan in nature, it WAS partisan in nature. That’s what the truth of the matter is. To try to spin it any other way insults our intelligence.

And somehow Jim, you erroneously thought that Bob Zappi’s twenty years in the business community was supposed to substitute for twenty years in the public service and governing community. You might want to quickly learn the critical difference if you are going to be heading up a public service entity like Westport for the next four years.

And by the way there are plenty of people in the Westport community with that body of experience to offer, including my own municipal and state government operations experience
Further, these skills and experience do not need to gouge the taxpayer with a salary of $125,000 annually. Didn’t you think that was a little greedy of Bob Zappi to ask for that amount of money? Never mind, you don ‘t have to answer.

Posted by carolanne curry on November 26, 2013 at 03:53 PM | #

Jim, my opinion of you rose considerably when I see that you can change your mind in the face of the facts.  You are bright and caring and want to move Westport forward, and there were many Democrats and Republicans who voted for you.  It was an awful decision to name Bob Zappi Operations Mgr. for $125,000/year. 

AND to add insult to injury, in his own announcement, Bob acted petulantly and blamed the Democrats for attacking him.  Excuse me?  I spoke with many Westporters yesterday and no matter what party they support, they were aghast at such a partisan decision on your part. 

Diane and Gordon never needed someone to do much of their job!  You are very capable and your decision made me think of an insecure newcomer wanting to pay a lot of money to someone else to cover your bases.  You will do just fine, and you’ve already planned more meetings, lots of time in the office, and a vision for our town.  I know that Avi works in the City so can’t he help you out a lot, but the three of you (including Helen Garten) will lead our town very well.  Thanks for stepping up the plate and reversing a bad decision.  You’ll be a great First Selectman on your own!

Posted by Linda Smith on November 26, 2013 at 04:52 PM | #

Sad day for Westport.  Many leaders chose a confidant to support their efforts as they tackle their new role in government.  Almost every elected official brings in people they can trust to help fulfill their vision and mission. 

Jim was elected to make decisions and he should have been given the opportunity to prove this decision was right for Westport. 

While we can all question the amount of Bob’s salary, we lost a very successful business leader to assist Jim.  Bob’s story is one of success and he would have easily assisted Jim in entering his new role and help to better Westport.  How quickly the criticism came in when someone wanted to do something different.  Something to better Westport.  Sad day.

The past should never be an indication of the future.  You just need to look at the growing and large OPEB liability to realize past decisions are sometimes bad decisions.  Who hired the firm that had no experience with municipalities that led to the OPEB debacle?  Who was in finance that left off so many employees for accruing for OPEB? Why did it take years to finally decide to hire an outside competent company to take care of Longshore?  That is the past, Jim was trying to Look towards the future.

Oh well.  Jim you tried something different and I applaud you.  Maybe the salary was the issue, I too questioned the amount.  That could have easily been fixed.  But attracting and bringing in a strong business leader to help you with the transition was thoughtful, bright and new.

Posted by Bart Shuldman on November 26, 2013 at 06:23 PM | #

Carolanne I must take exception to your remark regarding placing people with “years in public service” in management positions. That is the very problem with government today. Simply put we are loaded with bureaucrats on every level who spend more time working the system rather than working for responsible government. Recall that our system of government was originally developed around citizen participation. Unfortunately we have moved very far from that place of great expectations. We can argue about the manner in which First Selectman Marpe made his choice but we cannot take away from the fact that Bob Zappi is an exceptionable individual who would have brought sorely needed private sector experience to the table. Knowing Bob and his personality my guess is he will continue to be a contributor to the Marpe/Kaner administration.

Posted by Michael Calise on November 26, 2013 at 07:07 PM | #

I think the main thing that voters were upset about is that it is inconceivable to think that Jim Marpe didn’t have these ideas percolating during the campaign three weeks ago.  People think that he didn’t trust the voters enough to be honest and share his idea about hiring Zappi, or his idea of ways to cut legal costs.  Those issues would have been good to talk about during the campaign.

Posted by Linda Smith on November 26, 2013 at 08:22 PM | #

It looked to me like Marpe was hiring someone to do the job we elected him to do. There was nothing partisan about my reaction.

Posted by werner liepolt on November 26, 2013 at 09:35 PM | #

Mr. Marpe has the right to appoint whom he pleases to any position that might help run the town.

It’s ironic, though, that after Republican complaints about how profligate are the Democrats, the man offers $125,000 for the position and not a Republican complains.

Two women have been serving essentially the same function Zappi would have and,combined, they did not earn $125,000.

Posted by Daniel Katz on November 27, 2013 at 06:47 AM | #

Daniel—never assume what you don’t know.  You have no clue as to any discussion ‘a so called republican’ had with Jim or Avi reagrding this matter.  Just because it might not have been posted, which you chose to use to promote your agenda, some just might have decided to speak directly to Jim and Avi and handle it directly.

Posted by Bart Shuldman on November 27, 2013 at 10:11 AM | #

Bart…you are, of course, absolutely correct in saying I know nothing of the inside comments made to Mr. Marpe.

However, my point was, simply, and still is simply, that comments by Republicans about Democrats’ free spending are VERY PUBLIC and none has been so regarding the proposed Zappi appointment.

Nothing, sir, to do with any"agenda” of mine.

Posted by Daniel Katz on November 27, 2013 at 11:03 AM | #

Michael,
You’re worried about “working the system” and loading up the bureaucracy?
Well a $125,000 patronage payoff is a good example of what you mean, isn ‘t it?
And all done without transparency or openness…. And all done by Jim Marpe even before the lights got turned on in his First Selectman’s office.

Truly for Bob Zappi, time is money.
On the other hand, there are hundreds of other Westporters who have freely invested their time and intelligence for the betterment of ALL Westporters, not just a precious few.

Posted by carolanne curry on November 27, 2013 at 12:05 PM | #

Just in case anyone wanted to stick to the facts:

The First Selectman may delegate such authority as may be necessary to other Selectmen or to administrative assistants and may employ an Operations Manager who shall serve at will and may be delegated the authority to supervise such areas of town government, excepting police and fire departments, and public schools, as the First Selectman may determine

Posted by Bart Shuldman on November 27, 2013 at 03:34 PM | #

Bart, See my comment above where, despite the misreading by you, says exactly that in one sentence; the FIRST one.

Posted by Daniel Katz on November 27, 2013 at 03:42 PM | #

Carolanne you obviously did not grasp my point and I understand why. I truly think it is time for all the disgruntled to hang it up and let the victors govern.

Posted by Michael Calise on November 27, 2013 at 05:58 PM | #

I think it’s time to move on. Jim Marpe made a pretty big tactical and PR error in his very early announcement, I think that is something (almost) all can agree on.  I also think it is a sign of good judgement that he was able to admit his mistake and make an appropriate correction.
Yes, I am a registered republican and think it was a terrible idea to make such an appointment. Why run to say you can do the job, and then hire someone else to do it for you—it is a full-time position after all! Still, I am happy to see him move forward and I wish him well—it is in the interest off all of us that we hope he does a great job!

Posted by Joel Hallas on November 27, 2013 at 08:39 PM | #

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