Special election appeal moves ahead — slowly
FAIRFIELD — Democrats who took the town to court to force the special Board of Selectmen election have been granted an extension to file briefs in the pending appeal.
The election was held June 6 per the Superior Court order, and Democrat Kevin Kiley won, besting Republican Edward Bateson, who had been appointed to a vacancy on the board last December.
Attorney James Baldwin — representing Bateson, Republican Selectman Chris Tymniak, the town, and the Board of Selectmen — filed an appeal in the Appellate Court and is also seeking certification by the State Supreme Court over the issue of a stay on the judge’s order.
Baldwin’s representation itself has been a source of contention. First Selectman Mike Tetreau says the town’s charter gives the first selectman the sole authority to hire town attorneys. When the court case was first filed, Tetreau appointed an out-of-town attorney to represent the town and the board members.
However, Bateson and Tymniak held what they said was a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen and hired Baldwin. Baldwin had been acting as a legal adviser to the Republican Town Committee. Tetreau has twice sent letters to Baldwin instructing him to cease and desist his representation of the town.
The issue of representation came up during the mandamus hearing before Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis.
“Judge Bellis said it is a matter for the Appellate Court to address,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin also noted that the Board of Selectmen, at a July meeting, considered a motion to withdraw the appeal, but abandoned that motion “after consideration was given to Judge Bellis’ ruling from the bench” that denied an earlier attempt to have Lesser appear in lieu of Baldwin.
Briefs were due Sept. 5, and while Democrats sought a 30-day extension, they were granted an extension to Sept. 22.
The extension request was made for several reasons, including the fact that both attorneys for the plaintiffs, Joel Green and William Burke, are involved in other court cases.
Baldwin was willing to agree to a one-week extension.
“It is hard to imagine a case that is more important than the questions presented here on appeal concerning the methods and procedures by which citizens choose their public officials,” Baldwin argued.
He said there was no indication that Burke or Green tried to get an extension on their other court proceedings and provided no justification for why they waited three weeks to file the motion for extension.
“The only conclusion that can be drawn from such delay is that it was intentional or otherwise designed for a purpose other than the expeditious resolution of the issues on appeal,” Baldwin said.
Burke denied Baldwin’s charge, saying he’s been very busy. “I sent a couple of weeks covering matters for a colleague who had surgery, while my own clients continue to need my services,” Burke said.
Green said he requested the extension for a variety of reasons, both professional and personal.
“It is customary for counsel to extend the professional courtesy requested,” Green said. “Over Attorney Baldwin’s objection, the Appellate Court apparently recognized there was good cause for an extension of time and granted a two-week extension of time for filing of our briefs, which is greatly appreciated.”