LETTER: BOS violated state laws and town charter

Letter-to-the-EditorNEWTo the Editor:

The Board of Selectmen violated state laws and the town charter in rejecting the call of a special election to fill the remaining three years of the vacancy on the BOS. In addition, Ed Bateson acted unethically in acting upon the motion to refuse to approve the date set by the Town Clerk.

Let’s review the facts:

State election law clearly provides for citizens to petition their government and request a special election to fill a vacant seat in the Board of Selectmen. 3,200 signatures were collected and the Town Clerk certified the petition and set a date for the Special Election for June 6, 2017, as required by state election law.

The Town Charter, in section 2.5 provides two circumstances for the calling of a special election, and I quote the relevant section, the vacancy will be filled “…at a special election if convened by the Board of Selectmen or upon application by electors as provided in Chapter 146 of the CGS 9-164.” The purpose of the BOS motion was purely an administrative function, and was not actually needed. They were not allowed, under both state law and the town charter, to ignore the will of the people. It was an abuse of power by these two Republicans.

Further to Ed Bateson’s ethics violations. No public official may “…have a financial interest….which is incompatible with the proper discharge of the official duties or which may tend to impair the independence of judgment and the performance of the …. official duties.” Further in the Town Charter, “Any elected official……who acquires such private interest…..shall make disclosure…..and such person shall be disqualified from action on any matter involving the private interest.” Ed Bateson gave no thought to his conflict of interest. He should have recused himself.

Ed Bateson’s position on the Board of Selectmen was challenged and thus he certainly has a private interest in this action. Ed Batseon will earn $36,000 during the remainder of the three year term of office and he certainly has a financial interest in the outcome of this call for a special election. I know Ed Bateson to be an honorable man and I am surprised by this lapse of judgment.

There are plenty of solutions: First, and easiest, the Town Attorney should rule the amended motion null and void as it violates state law and the town charter. As stated in Roberts Rule of Order, “Motions that conflict with the …charter…or with procedural rules prescribed by national, state or local laws, are out of order, and if any motion of this kind is adopted it is null and void. RONR p343, lines 14 – 17.

Second, perhaps the two republicans will come to their senses, recognize the error of their ways and vote to rescind their action and act in purely an administrative function and approve the date. Third, absent the above, Mr. Bateson should rectify his ethical violation, and save himself from a formal complaint, by joining with the First Selectman in rescinding the prior action. Robert’s Rules provide for both such actions.

Fourth, perhaps the Secretary of State could be asked to opine on this violation of state election law, help the Republican party leadership understand their abuse of power, and direct the Registrars of Voters to comply with state law and conduct the special election.

Of course, the last resort is the leaders of the petition drive will file suit in an appropriate venue. That will cost the town money defending a clear violation of state law and the town charter.

In an era of populism, it is amazing that two republicans would thwart the will of 3,200 voters and deny the legally requested and certified special election, simply to hold on to power. But, such hubris has been shown by Fairfield Republican leadership in the past when they acted illegally in re-districting the town and were forced, by a state court judge, to change. This is not the republican party, but rather a small group of leaders imposing their will on the party, their elected officials and the citizens of Fairfield. Shame on them.

Philip Dwyer

Fairfield

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