This story has been updated Friday, Aug. 16.

In a phone conversation with The Darien Times Friday morning, Selectman Marc Thorne, who did not vote for Kevin Cunningham for ta vacant Police Commission position, said while both candidates are “very well qualified” and “have very impressive backgrounds,” “I felt Sharad [Samy] was a better fit for the job. His particular skills would really support the role of the Police Commission in our town.”

Sharad Samy was the Democratic Town Committee’s endorsed candidate for the vacancy.

More specifically, Thorne mentioned Samy’s former military and career experience.

“He is a very distinguished lawyer and familiar with dealing with all kinds of situations. I just thought he was the right guy.”

Thorne added, however, that he is sure Cunningham “will do a good job.”

Selectman Pamela Sparkman, who also did not vote for Cunningham, said the Democratic Town Committee unanimously voted “to make Sharad the nominating candidate, to bring him forward for the Police Commission.”

She added that “I felt Samy’s skill set as an attorney was a better fit for the Police Commission, which was why I decided to vote for him.”

However, like Thorne, she said both candidates are “exemplary.”

“We knew we couldn’t go wrong with either candidate. Kevin has been a wonderful volunteer in the town for decades and I think he will do a great job for the position as well.”

Cunningham’s resume

According to Cunningham’s resume, he has over a decade of experience in the areas of business continuity, crisis management, disaster recovery planning, and emergency response and operations.

He is currently a director at a California-based technology firm. In this position, he is the “Global Business Continuity and Crisis Management lead for the world’s largest colocation data center provider and technology firm,” his resume said.

In addition, Cunningham is chairman of the town’s Advisory Board of Health, serves on the Blight Review Board, just resigned from the Planning and Zoning Commission and has served on the Emergency Services Review Board.

Thursday, Aug. 15

The 3 to 2 vote in favor of appointing Cunningham to serve on Darien’s Police Commission was along party lines at Thursday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

Republican Selectmen Kip Koons and Susan Marks, as well as First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, voted in favor of Cunningham, while Pamela Sparkman and Marc Thorne — both Democrats — voted against the appointment.

The Board of Selectmen were in executive session (closed to the public and press) for 45 minutes prior to the public meeting.

The other candidate for the position was Samy.

Cunningham will be filling a vacancy being left by Paul Johnson, who is resigning after having “given exemplary service on the Police Commission for 32 years,” said Stevenson, prior to announcing the appointment. Johnson is currently chairman of the commission.

Stevenson, who, as first selectman, needed to vote affirmatively for Cunningham in order for him to be appointed, said both Samy and Cunningham were “outstanding candidates” and it was a very difficult decision to make.

“In my tenure as first selectmen, this has been the most deliberative that we’ve ever been in terms of seating someone to a board or a commission, probably because the seat has been filled for 32 years. We felt the weight of that decision very fully,” she said.

Cunningham’s term begins Sept. 18 and ends June 30, 2020.

“We’ll have the opportunity to bring Kevin back next June and talk about his reappointment at that point in time,” Stevenson said.

The Police Commission will be selecting its chairman once Cunningham is seated.

Cunningham, who ran for the Planning & Zoning Commission as a Democrat, recently resigned from that position.

In an email, he told The Darien Times that he will be taking on a leadership role at the Noroton Presybterian Church and the P&Z Commission meetings would conflict with his new role.

“I’m so excited and blessed to have been asked by the leadership at Noroton Presbyterian Church to help develop and grow a brand-new youth ministry program for middle school-aged students starting in September. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to do this with my son and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it,” he wrote. “The only bad part is that both these church gatherings and P&Z meetings happen in the evening at the beginning of the week, and as much as I would like to, it’s just impossible to do both.”

Samy has been a Darien resident for nearly five decades. A Democrat, he is a member of VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and is very active in town in regard to veterans affairs. He served in Djibouti, Africa, for a six-month period in 2005.

He said in a prior Darien Times article that after years of being a Republican, he became a Democrat when Barack Obama was first elected. Since then, he said he has not liked the direction his former party has gone.

John Sini, who recently resigned as chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission, said that he is “pleased” to hear that Cunningham “is continuing to serve our town in an important role. As the longest serving member of P&Z, Kevin always proved to be fair and levelheaded during his tenure. Kevin’s experience as a first responder and his career focused on emergency services will be invaluable to the Police Commission.”

Statement from Darien DTC Chairman David Bayne on Aug. 19.

Note: This is not an official DTC statement since the DTC has not met to vote or approve it. It is written soley from Bayne’s viewpoint.

Sharad Samy was born in India and is an Ivy League educated lawyer who served in the United States Army for eleven years. He left the service as a Major in the JAG Corps. Sharad went on to be a partner at one of America’s largest law firms and is currently General Counsel at an investment firm in Connecticut. Sharad has served Darien on the Board of Assessment Appeals and has been an active member at the Darien VFW. His efforts in organizing the July 4th Push-Pull Parade are valued by all families with young children in Darien.

Police Commissioner Paul Johnson’s retirement leaves the Police Commission without a Commissioner who is a trained lawyer for the first time in more than 30 years. By its nature, the Darien Police Department presents an enormous area of legal exposure to Darien. Sharad’s legal, regulatory and military background (including emergency management and disaster preparedness training) made him Mr. Johnson’s obvious replacement.

The DTC believed that Mr. Samy’s appointment would have ensured continuity in managing Darien’s legal exposure from its Police Department by having a seasoned lawyer with an extensive military background serving as a Police Commissioner. The DTC Nominating Committee interviewed both Kevin Cunningham and Sharad Samy, and the DTC unanimously voted to forward Mr. Samy’s nomination to the Board of Selectmen in March 2019.

We are, therefore, quite surprised that three of the Selectmen decided not to choose Sharad. Not only would his appointment have been a historic milestone for Darien, but the Police Commission is now bereft of a distinguished lawyer for the first time since at least the mid-1980s. We are proud that Selectmen Marc Thorne and Pam Sparkman voted their conscience and insisted that Sharad Samy was the correct choice for Darien’s next Police Commissioner.

sfox@darientimes.com

Additional reporting by Susan Shultz