FAIRFIELD — The over 3,000 petition signatures filed to force a special election to fill the Board of Selectmen seat vacated by Republican Laurie McArdle are still in the process of being certified by the Town Clerk’s office.

The 3,199 signatures were collected by the Democratic Town Committee in the span of six days and turned in for certification on Dec. 22. A total of 2,031 certified signatures is needed.

McArdle resigned effective Dec. 1 due to business considerations, and the Republican Town Committee recommended Ed Bateson as her replacement. Democrat First Selectman Mike Tetreau and Republican Selectman Chris Tymniak approved Bateson’s appointment on Dec. 7.

However, state statutes allow for the special election, and DTC Chairman Steve Sheinberg said the decision was made to seek such an election because there are three years remaining on the term.

“We’re plugging away at them,” Town Clerk Betsy Browne said, but added it is taking a while because the office is short-staffed at the moment. “We are working ‘forthwith’ as the statute says.”

Once the requisite number of signatures are certified, the Town Clerk sets a date for the special election no later than 150 days from that date.

The special election has riled Republicans, who cite a “gentlemen’s agreement” that has existed whereby the elected boards accept the person nominated by the respective town committee for the vacancy. RTC Chairman James Millington said that practice was followed when two Democrat seats on the Board of Finance became vacant, following the last election.

However, in 2011, when then-First Selectman Ken Flatto resigned, the Republican selectman refused to vote for the DTC’s recommendation of Mike Tetreau. While a special election was not held, when the Board of Selectmen could not come to an agreement due to Selectman James Walsh’s refusal to accept Mike Tetreau for the vacancy, the selection then went to all elected Democrats. Tetreau was installed as interim first selectman, and several months later, won the seat outright in the November elections.

More recently, though not an appointment to fill a vacancy for an elected seat, a dispute arose over the re-appointment of Democrat Walter Flynn to the Police Commission. Last February, Tetreau moved Flynn’s reappointment to a second term. However, Republicans McArdle and Tymniak voted instead to appoint Joe Cafferelli to the seat. Cafferelli, the father of Tymniak’s campaign manager, changed his affiliation prior to the appointment from Republican to unaffiliated.

greilly@ctpost.com; @GreillyPost