Does appointment to a Fairfield municipal board or commission mean a resident must resign their membership in other community groups?

That's what some members of the Historic District Commission say they were advised to do, and on Thursday they asked the Ethics Commission for an advisory ruling.

The ethics panel, after a brief discussion, agreed that members of town boards and commission need only recuse themselves if other organizations in which they participate come before their respective boards.

"It's just common sense," Ethics Commission member George Lacovara said. "In my experience, we don't want to be the czar of who can serve."

Historic District Commission Chairman Ellen Gould had requested the ethics panel's opinion. In a letter to the Ethics Commission, Gould said she has received "mixed signals regarding members' participation in local neighborhood organizations, specifically the Old Post Road Association and the Sasquanaug Association." Both groups sometimes advocate their neighborhood's causes before official bodies, such as the Town Plan and Zoning Commission or the historic district panel.

Gould said the town attorney requested that several Historic District Commission members, including herself, resign from their respective community organizations, but a newly appointed member has been told otherwise. In fact, she said, he was told that his "appointment was complementary to the commission."

Thomas Dailey, who also serves on the Historic District Commission, sent a letter to Town Attorney Richard Saxl about the same issue.

He said that after his appointment more than two years ago, he has resigned or not renewed memberships in the Sasquanaug Association, the Southport Conservancy, the Pequot Library and the Fairfield Museum and History Center. Since that time, he said, some of those groups' representatives have appeared before the Historic District commission with applications.

"Based on this experience, your sound advice has eliminated even the appearance of conflict of interest in my official duties so I am grateful for it," Dailey said in his letter. He added that he believes that members of the Historic District Commission should not have any such outside memberships.

"I believe that his standard best serves the commission and our town," Dailey said.