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Stonington official seeks reason she was kept off school panel

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published June 16. 2014 4:00AM

Stonington — School board member Alisa Morrison says that First Selectman Ed Haberek and Selectman George Crouse owe residents an explanation about why they refused to appoint her last week to the K-12 School Building Committee, despite what the school board calls her "professional qualifications and expertise."

After last Wednesday night's Board of Selectmen meeting, both Haberek and Crouse, who were Democratic running mates in the last election, refused to discuss why they would not support Republican Selectwoman Glee McAnanly's motion to appoint Morrison, a Democrat.

"He needs to say why I didn't get appointed," Morrison said about Haberek. "If it's personal, just say that. Don't duck the issue. The public deserves an answer."

State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, whose district includes Stonington, taught with Morrison at Three Rivers Community College.

"I shared an office with her. I know how good she is and I know she cares a lot about the town," she said. "She's a smart woman with a Ph.D. who gives a lot to the community."

Urban added that Haberek needs to give residents a reason why he won't appoint Morrison.

Morrison, who has been critical of Haberek, served nine years on the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as on the Inland Wetlands Commission and Athletic Fields Task Force and has been a licensed professional engineer for 25 years.

Morrison holds bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering and a doctorate in environmental science.

As an engineer, she has worked on municipal projects such as the Westerly police station, Misquamicut Beach Pavilion and parking lot renovation, the Mystic Middle School renovation and was on the committee that oversaw the consolidation of Three Rivers Community College.

"It was unfortunate that the first selectman let his personal feelings outweigh the best interests of the town. Mr. Crouse claimed it wasn't personal, but I can't believe that due to the extent of my professional qualifications," Morrison added. "To make that statement is ludicrous. Of course its personal. What else would it be?"

She said she was not surprised by Haberek and Crouse's decision as they had already asked the school board for a second candidate.

Morrison acknowledged that she can be "direct and forceful" at times with her questions, "but I always have the best interests of the town" in mind.

Morrison has been critical of Haberek on a number of issues. Some of her most pointed criticism came earlier this year, when she criticized his Facebook page, which he had used for several years to post official town information, but which Morrison and others said often also included inappropriate posts.

"It is embarrassing that someone who goes on Facebook to read about our town or news in a snow emergency will instead see that the first selectman likes pages such as 'Mommy has a Naughty Side,' 'Playboy Philippines' and 'Victoria Secret Models,' not to mention the countless pages of other models in bikinis, questionable body building sites and women weight lifters," Morrison wrote in her criticism to the town.

"If this is the face of the town, this is an embarrassment," she wrote.

Haberek later said the town would start an official Facebook page and he would limit access to his personal page.

Urban called Morrison's apparent punishment for criticizing Haberek on various issues, a "First Amendment issue."
Morrison added it is "ludicrous" to say that Haberek and Crouse's actions are not for personal reasons.

Those appointed to the building committee can expect to spend hundreds of hours on the elementary school renovation and expansion project over the next five to six years.

The building committee has been without a school board member since December. Selectmen typically appoint members suggested by their board without controversy. Morrison has been the unanimous selection of the school board because of her professional and municipal government background.

She said it should be up to school board members to decide which of its members it wants to represent them on the committee.

The school board and selectmen now appear to be at an impasse. Haberek and Crouse want the school board to send them a second candidate but school board members feel that if they do that, Morrison will not be selected. School Board Chairman Frank Todisco has said he will be speaking to selectmen to get an explanation about Morrison was kept off the committee.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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