Confusion mounts on continued legal fight regarding Fairfield’s special election
Updated 2:24 pm, Friday, March 24, 2017
FAIRFIELD — The town’s lawyer in the Board of Selectmen special election court case is vowing to continue the fight, but there is a question of who authorized him to press on.
James Baldwin was initially chosen by Republican Selectmen Ed Bateson and Chris Tymniak at a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen they called when the first selectman refused to do so. First Selectman Mike Tetreau contends the meeting was illegal and, under the charter, only the first selectman appoints the town attorney or any assistant town attorneys.
Because Town Attorney Stanton Lesser disagreed with Bateson and Baldwin over the need for a special election, Tetreau had appointed attorney Robert Morrin. Lesser said Democrats were within their rights, under state statute, to collect signatures to force a special election for the seat vacated in December by Republican Selectman Laurie McArdle.
Bateson and Tymniak refused to set a date for the special election. They argued since Bateson was appointed within 30 days of the vacancy, the town charter does not allow for a special election. A Superior Court judge ruled otherwise, and last week set June 6 as the date for the election.
Neither Bateson nor Tymniak responded to repeated inquiries as to when the selectmen authorized Baldwin to take action to appeal Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis’ original ruling that ordered the board to set a date for the special election. A motion he made subsequent to Bellis’ initial ruling sought to have the case certified for expedited Supreme Court review, but that was denied by Bellis on Monday.
“I can’t immediately reveal strategy or details, but I can tell you with confidence that this is not the end of the line,” Baldwin said.
Tetreau said he did not receive a request for a special election to discuss what steps the town should next take but, had he been asked, he would have scheduled a meeting. Tetreau said giving such direction to the attorney is part of the board’s duties under the charter.
It was, in fact, the ability to “direct litigation” Tymniak cited in a statement made at the Feb. 21 meeting he and Bateson called. Tetreau did not attend.
On the agenda for the Feb. 21 meeting, the only action item was the “appointment of counsel.” Under the Freedom of Information Act, items cannot be added to the agenda of a special meeting. The meeting minutes do not indicate any discussion of litigation strategy, nor was there any closed executive session.