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Selectmen To Form Charter Revision Commission

It's a timing thing if they want the questions on the November ballot.

The Board of Selectmen (BOS) recently discussed forming a Charter Revision Commission composed of interested residents whose job is to review the town's existing charter.

The selectmen are the appointing committee, noted Town Clerk Karen Marsden, who in the past, has guided some Charter Revision Commissions in their work.

Clinton's Town Charter, which was recently updated in 2004 and again in 2009, outlines the rules of government for the town including the duties and powers of its elected officers, elections, budgets, term limits of offices, and the process of town meetings.

State mandates ask that towns conduct a review of their charter at least every five years.  There can be no more than 15 and no less than five members. No more than one-third of the members can hold public office.

Charter Revision Commissions can look at all sorts of possible changes from big things such as changing a town's form of government to small things such as cleaning up the document's archaic language.

After all edits are completed, the commission presents a draft form of their revisions to the selectmen for their review. The BOS can adopt all of the commission's changes, part of them, or none at all. During this time there will be public hearings held to gather feedback from residents. In the end, a referendum or vote is scheduled where residents can approve or deny any changes.

If the commission and selectmen determine that sections of the charter should be changed, those questions go to the public. In order to get the questions on the November ballot for the next election, all questions need to be approved and in the town clerk's hands by September 13.

At least two public hearings are to be held, noted First Selectman Willie Fritz. One is usually held in the beginning of the process so the commission members can glean information from the public. The second one is held near the end of the process so the public can be informed of the requested changes.

If you are interested in serving on the Charter Revision Commission, contact the at .

Phil Sengle January 11, 2012 at 03:21 PM
The charter does need updating or changing in a few areas. But I think two issues of self interest drive the sudden need for charter revision. Willie wants a four year term and the big spenders want to loosen the controls on spending. During the election the Repulicans made Charter Revision a key plank of their platform making several serious proposals including moving to a town manager/council form of government. Willie and his team were completely silent on charter revision. In fact they had no platform at all. They should have had the courage to discuss ideas during the campaign instead of a "stay the course" approach. Willie won, the voters spoke - I get it. But even his supporters should cringe at this self serving move than had to be under consideration before the election. What's next - packing the commission with pro four year term supporters?
Steve Bristol January 11, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Fay Was there any indication given that the process is fully expected to be wrapped up by that 9/13 date? Thanks. Regarding changes...I was a supporter of the Walter plan to move us to a professional Town Manager system. I think that should be the first item to be considered and evaluated.
Fay Abrahamsson (Editor) January 11, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Hi - all indications leaned toward getting this group assembled ASAP and scheduling the public hearings so any questions regarding changes to the charter can be on the November 6 ballot. As you know, it would cost money to hold just a referendum vote by itself for this purpose only. Easier to tag any questions on to an election ballot.
Charles Stannard January 11, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Does it have to be a referendum vote or can it be a town meeting using check list and ballot?
Phil Sengle January 11, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Has to be a referendum. Also due to cost as Fay said and quorum requirements it is better to have at general election. Be careful what powers to be try to slip through.
Fay Abrahamsson (Editor) January 11, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Charles, yes, it must be at a formal referendum vote. It can be a stand-alone referendum or as part of a state or municipal election.
alan kravitz January 12, 2012 at 03:43 PM
I would like to see an open dialogue on the Clinton Patch regarding the governance issues that need to be addressed. I suggest that we start by looking at how other communities have framed the issues and some of the alternatives. the best study that i have found is the Wilton by the League of Women Voters Study of Charter Reform.
Fay Abrahamsson (Editor) January 12, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Alan - I absolutely agree that the Clinton Patch would be a great forum for generating ideas, changes and suggestions for the Charter Revision Commission. I will be writing about this subject many times from now until the referendum vote and will continually ask for ideas from the public.
Steve Bristol February 07, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Phil-- You're right, there was no indication of wanting a charter revision, let alone the proposals you mentioned..and more. I find it remarkable--and offensive--that as soon as WF is re-elected, he announces the desire for 4 year terms, the elimination of the First Selectman runners-up from the BOS, etc. A quick look didn't turn up the PAtch article where WF outlined the charter revisions he wants. However, I DID find an interesting quote from the pre-election forum where he came out against a Town Manager position. "In two years, you can say goodbye to the first selectman." That sure doesn't sound like someone who thinks we absolutely need 4 year terms for our First Selectman.
Phil Sengle February 07, 2012 at 04:12 PM
My greatest hope is that the electorate will take an active interest in this. In elections you often have an "October Surprise", but here we have a December surprise. Total silence on charter revision before the election and then about 6 weeks later we suddenly need charter revision only 3 years after the last revision. Forgive me for being cynical, but "they" are up to something. My guess is the 4 year term for WF and over riding the state statute that let's the losing first selectman candidate take a seat on the BOS is a "mis-direction play". The real goal may be to make spending easier. Why else would they put two BOF members on charter revision. Now the BOF can try to write their own preferences into the charter. Voters beware.

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