Republicans call for meeting regarding special election
Updated 5:43 pm, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
FAIRFIELD — While Democrats push for a special election, Republicans have called for a special meeting.
Meanwhile, Town Clerk Betsy Browne has sent a letter to the Secretary of the State’s office calling for that special election, and First Selectman Mike Tetreau said the special Board of Selectmen meeting will be held Wednesday at 4 p.m.
The letter from Browne calling the special election does not include a date, that needs to be set by the selectmen.
The GOP majority on the Board of Selectmen last week refused to rescind a previous motion and failed to set a date for a special election for the seat on that board held by Republican Laurie McArdle. McArdle resigned in December, one year into a four-year term.
Tetreau, a Democrat, and Selectman Chris Tymniak, a Republican, appointed Ed Bateson to fill the vacancy, in a process outlined by the town charter.
But Democrats spearheaded a petition drive, citing state statutes, calling for a special election. Tymniak and Bateson have refused to set a date, claiming the town charter, in this instance, supersedes state statutes and no special election is required.
Town Attorney Stanton Lesser has stated the GOP selectmen are overstepping their authority, and that a special election must now be held because the requisite petition signatures were collected. He disagrees with their stance regarding the charter and state statutes.
In a letter hand-delivered to Tetreau on Friday, Bateson, and Tymniak called for a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen. The letter included a long list of questions they want Lesser to answer, in writing, for that meeting.
The letter asks Lesser to explain the legal basis for his interpretations of the charter and state statutes and ask on what legal basis can Browne call a special election if the Board of Selectmen refuses to set a date.
It also asks if that question was asked of the Secretary of the State’s office, and if it hasn’t, to do so and copy themselves and the Town Clerk on the request.
In addition, the letter addresses Lesser’s authority to interpret the charter.
“Is it your legal opinion that the Board of Selectmen must accept your legal opinion on the interpretation of the town charter?” the letter states. “If your answer is yes, on what legal basis do you make this assertion?”
James Baldwin, an attorney for the Republican Town Committee, said the charter requires that any requests to the town attorney must come from the Board of Selectmen, not from individuals. That, he said, is the reason for the special meeting. “It may be a kind of pro forma meeting, Baldwin said. “I don’t think they can compel to answer questions.”
Baldwin also questioned what gives Lesser the authority to instruct Browne to call for the special election.
“The town attorney is acting as an advocate, rather than as a counselor, in this situation,” Baldwin said, “and this is, I think, not his role.”