Unanswered questions after special election: Cost? Court ruling?

FAIRFIELD — Democrat Kevin Kiley was sworn in this week as the newest member of the Board of Selectmen, after he overwhelmingly won the June 6 special election.

But while the election was held, and Kiley is ready to return to the board next week, there are still several questions surrounding the special election, forced by a petition drive spearheaded by the Democratic Town Committee.

The matter of the courts

First, there is an appeal pending in the Appellate Court, seeking to overturn Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis’ ruling that the special election must be held. Republican Selectmen Chris Tymniak and Edward Bateson had refused to set a date for the election, claiming it was not allowed under the town charter.

Bateson had been appointed on Dec. 7 by Tymniak and First Selectman Mike Tetreau to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Republican Selectman Laurie McArdle, one year into a four-year term. The GOP argued that the town charter only allows for a special election if an appointment is not made within 30 days.

A group of five Democrats took the town the court to force the special election and Bellis ruled that state statutes that address the term served by an appointee allows for a special election.

Since Town Attorney Stanton Lesser believed the special election was legal, Tetreau hired attorney Robert Morrin to represent the town. Tymniak and Bateson, however, held a meeting of their own, and hired James Baldwin, the former chairman of the Republican Town Committee. Morrin continued to represent Tetreau.

Baldwin was unsuccessful in attempts to have the case certified for expedited review by the state Supreme Court, and his appeal before the Appellate Court is still pending.

Lessor said he has not yet researched what would happen if the Appellate Court reversed Bellis’ order, so did not feel comfortable commenting.

As of Thursday morning, the Appellate Court website did not indicate any new motions or hearing dates.

Paying for Democracy

Also up in the air is the cost to the taxpayers. Registrar of Voters Matthew Waggner said the election itself cost about $20,000. The department had about $5,000 available, he said, and the Board of Finance recently approved the transfer of $15,000.

Morrin has submitted an invoice to the town for $4,368, according to Fiscal Officer Robert Mayer, but so far, the town has not received any bills from Baldwin.

According to Mayer, the town has an oral agreement with Morrin for a rate of $195 per hour. He said he is not aware of any such agreement, written or oral, with Baldwin.

Baldwin could not be reached for comment regarding his billing.

Both Tetreau and Lessor have said they’ve sent multiple reminders to Baldwin. Tetreau has also sent a letter to Baldwin, telling him to cease and desist representing the town. According to Tetreau, under the town charter, only the first selectman has the authority to hire town attorneys.

Moving on

Meanwhile, Kiley prepares to attend his first Board of Selectmen meeting since 2015. Kiley, who has served in elected offices in town for 22 years, had been on the board as a Republican, appointed to fill a vacancy. But the GOP chose not to add him to ticket in the 2015 municipal election. Kiley switched his party affiliation earlier this year.

After taking the oath of office from Tetreau at Monday’s Democratic Town Committee meeting, Kiley said, “The election is over - now, we must govern for all the people. It is time to move Fairfield forward, beyond the partisan politics that have endangered our town, and we must restore transparency and civility to our government. Together, with Mike Tetreau, we will govern for everyone, with responsibility and respect.”

Kiley’s election returns the majority on the Board of Selectmen to the Democrats. The board next meets on Wednesday, June 21 at 5 p.m.

greilly@ctpost.com; @GreillyPost