Fairfield Dems back Tetreau for interim first selectman
Updated 4:29 pm, Tuesday, April 5, 2011
First Selectman Kenneth Flatto announced his resignation last month to take a job with Gov. Dannel Malloy's administration.
Since Flatto is a Democrat, his replacement must be one was well. The remaining two selectmen, Democrat Sherri Steeneck and Republican James Walsh, must agree on an interim first selectman within 30 days of Flatto's last day, which is expected to be April 29.
Tetreau also plans to run for first selectman in November, and Republican Town Committee Chairman James Baldwin has said he does not believe the interim first selectman should be someone planning to run for the job. By giving a future candidate the seat on an interim basis, he argued, that person would have an unfair advantage in the race.
Steeneck said Monday that she has no problem with a potential candidate filling out the rest of Flatto's four-year term until November, saying that the interim official should not only be capable and willing to do the job, but also have familiarity with the players.
A source in the Republican Party said that Flatto previously was unwilling to appoint Walsh to fill the unexpired term of Ralph Bowley, who died last year, on the Board of Selectmen if he had planned on being a candidate in November.
Flatto denied that, but said he did ask Walsh whether he would run for either selectman or first selectman, because he had concerns if he "planned to use it as platform to seek to make the position political." Flatto said Walsh "voluntarily" indicated he was not a likely candidate, "but it was never, ever a litmus test."
At that time, Flatto had talked with finance board member Kevin Kiley about filling Bowley's spot, but in the end took the Republican Town Committee's recommendation of Walsh. "And when we did that, there were no questions asked and no commitments about political ambitions for the future required," the first selectman said.
If Steeneck and Walsh cannot agree on an interim, state statutes then given the elected Democratic officeholders in town 60 days to select a replacement for Flatto. In either case, any registered voter could still collect petition signatures to force a special election.
Walsh said he is not willing at this point to say what or who he will support. "This is nothing against Mike," Walsh said of Tetreau. "I just want us to have a full discussion." He also said any discussion of Flatto's successor should take place in public session. "Every other position has been talked about in public," Walsh said. "It's the taxpayers' first selectman."
He also said he's not sure what role Flatto seems to feel he has in the discussion, and added that under his own reading of the charter, the discussion cannot start until Flatto officially retires.
Tetreau is the only Democrat to indicate an interest in running for the full term as first selectman. Two Republicans have announced their candidacy for the November race -- finance board Vice Chairman Robert Bellitto Jr. and Representative Town Meeting member David Becker. During a recent finance board discussion that set the salary for the first selectman, Kiley, along with Bellitto and Tetreau, recused himself from the meeting, an indication that he also may be considering a candicacy.