Fairfield residents want consistency and transparency in updated town charter

Old Town Hall in Fairfield, Conn.

Old Town Hall in Fairfield, Conn.

File photo / File photo

FAIRFIELD — Residents want consistency and transparency more than anything else as officials prepare to update the town charter.

The Charter Revision Committee held a virtual public hearing Wednesday night to seek input from residents. Nearly 100 people joined the call and many voiced their wants and concerns about what to put into the updates. Above all else, residents want to be in the mix in deciding what will be in one of the town’s most important documents.

“This is an era now where we have access to everything and I really strongly feel I would like to see a lot more transparency within the town,” resident Matthew Hallock said.

He said this could include an office of the people or board that has the power to see all of the communication from elected or appointed officials, such as correspondence, notes or transcripts.

“There’s still a lot going on with the smoke-filled rooms and closed doors that we as the citizens are not privy to,” he added. “I think we need to be proactive in putting a stop to that. So I would really like to empower us as the citizens of Fairfield much more strongly.”

During Hallock’s speech he also suggested the committee members take Fairfield’s culture into consideration so that they don’t put something into the charter that does not reflect the tradition or character of Fairfield. He said this was especially important when addressing land-use development and the environment.

Town resident Sarah Keitt also spoke for the need for transparency, suggesting certain charter review members who have served on other commissions or boards be replaced with fresh eyes.

Seven residents serve on the commission, including three Republicans, three Democrats and one unaffiliated member. According to the commission rules, only two appointees were allowed to be members of an existing municipal board or commission.

“I agree that we need to look at our town charter and we need to look at our boards and commissions however to follow on what Mr. Hallock was saying about transparency, I’m concerned that the charter commission as it is consists of three people who are on the strategic planning committee that made the suggestion for the charter review,” Keitt said.

“It’s not a personal thing, it’s not a political thing,” she added. “In the interest of transparency I feel strongly starting out that those three people should be made ex officio members of the commission so that they can advise and provide background, but you really need three new sets of eyes and opinion on this moving forward.”

Bryan Cafferelli, chairman of the commission, said “each and every one” of the commission members have agreed to approach the charter revision with an open mind and nothing is predetermined in this process.

“It is the very beginning and it will be a very public and transparent process,” he said. “I promise you that. We will have as much public input as necessary and we want to get off on the right foot.”

Another popular opinion that was brought up during the meeting is the inconsistencies between the town charter and the town code. Town resident Carolyn Trabuco said that there are parts of the town charter and town code that are “not in harmony” and actually “in conflict.” She, as well as town resident Ed Bateson, encouraged the commission to take a close look at that.

“I would like to see us have an open mind that when you guys look at the charter maybe you pull some stuff out of the charter and recommend it going to the town codes so that it’s easier for elected bodies to handle it,” Bateson said.

“There’s bits and pieces scattered through both documents,” he added. “Maybe take a holistic view of everything so that it is easier to maintain because we all know charter revision comes up once in the blue moon.”

The next Charter Revision Commission meeting will be held Oct. 14. Residents can send in their comments, questions or concerns at Crc@Fairfieldct.org.