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A Four-Year Term For First Selectman? Charter Revision Begins

The newly-formed Charter Revision Committee has a short timeline to decide what changes they feel are needed in the town's charter, or form of government.

The Charter Revision Committee has been chosen (), they will hold their first meeting this week, and they will post their agendas and minutes on the town's website.

Now what they need to do is figure out what changes, additions, deletions and modifications the Clinton Town Charter may need.

The committee will hold at least two public hearings - one in the beginning of the process to gain community input; and one near the end to announce their recommendations.

Look to Patch for the dates of the public hearings which have not yet been scheduled. 

The committee's recommendations will go to the Board of Selectmen for their input and review. The selectmen will also hold a public hearing.

The timing of any proposed changes to the charter is crucial. In order for the proposed recommendations to be added to the November presidential ballot, the town clerk needs the questions in her hand by September 13.  The questions, whether grouped together or listed individually, need to have a majority vote by voters in order to be adopted into the charter.

To begin the process on what might need changing, Town Clerk Karen Marsden offered a few suggestions to the committee including:

1. Changing the first selectman's term to a four-year term instead of a two-year term. (A three-year term is not feasible due to the schedule of state vs. municipal elections.)

2. Changing the Board of Selectmen's terms also from a two-year to four-year term but staggering it. For example, one Democrat seat would be for four years, and one Republican seat would be for four years and the other two seats would be for two-year terms for the first election. Then all Board of Selectmen members would run for the four-year term as their terms expire.

3. Changing the process of placing the unsuccessful candidate for first selectman on the list to be seated on the Board of Selectmen depending upon number of votes he or she receives in relation to other candidates. In other words, the unsuccessful candidate for the office of first selectman would not be seated as a member of that board.

4. Changing the charter so no candidate can be seated for multiple elected positions.

5. Changing the number of members on the Board of Finance (currently a six member board with two alternates) to either five members or seven members, all four-year terms, and no alternates thus eliminating a tie vote.

6. Changing the number of members on the Planning & Zoning Commission (currently a nine member board with three alternates) to a seven member board with no alternates.

7. Changing the charter to reflect that all alternate positions on all boards be eliminated.  According to Marsden, these positions often cause problems when a regular member returns and a vote is needed. The alternate must be the one to vote and the regular member cannot vote.

The above items are suggestions only by the town clerk.

Bradford J. Sullivan February 14, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Clemson, Isn't a charge from the BOS only required when a commission is formed pursuant to a petition? Otherwise, the BOS would have discretion to make charter recommendations. That's the way I interpret C.G.S. 7-190. Let me know how you read it. Brad
Phil Sengle February 23, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Randy: Great suggestion (term limits). Might be a fair trade off. Also thanks for remembering what Willie said at candidate forum. I thought he was talking about a town manager. All the candidates were asked for their position on a town manager. One was for and two opposed. Willie was one of those opposed who as I recall (paraphrasing) said it was not necessary because if the First Selectman was doing a poor job, they can be voted out every two years. My guess is that when he said this, he knew he was going to seek charter revision on this topic.
Randy Watson February 23, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Phil, You are correct. I meant to say town manager. That was a typo on my part. I should have paid better attention during those typing lessons all those years ago. The bottom line for me is this: if Mr. Fritz wants continuity of leadership, the town manager form of government is the way to go. If what he wants is job security, a more likely scenario, maybe he should find a new vocation. The job of First Selectman is to serve the town; not the other way around. We need a professional to revitalize our town and see it prosper. Would you make someone with no experience the CEO of a company with a $45,000,000.00 budget? No, of course not. But that is what we do every time we elect a new First Selectman. The CRC clearly does not have the time to implement such a change. However, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be talking about it as a plan for the future.
mrshess February 23, 2012 at 08:24 PM
As politicians always make promises, isn't it time we held them to them? I propose a job review, just as we have in the private sector. A "report card" of what Willie said he'd achieve and a grade on how he actually did. It would be a simple way of showing town voters what was promised and what was achieved and at what proposed cost and what the actual cost turned out to be. The real world has job evaluations, why shouldn't the people whom we are paying with our hard earned tax dollars?
Steve Bristol February 26, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Brad Sorry I missed your reply. My use of "charge" was incorrect; it should have been ID'd as not the 'official' meaning of charge. (I have been corrected on my choice of words by others as well) What I was getting at is that there must be some reason known to someone as to why we are having a CRC only 3 years after the last. If there was such a reason as to convene this quickly--and without mention during the election period--one would THINK it would be screamed from the mountaintop by the BOS. The only reason even offered is credited to the Town Clerk---who merely parrots the plans the First Selectman put forth shortly after the election. If that's the case, I believe that the appropriate petition should have been required. That decision would need to be made well above my legal knowledge level. In my opinion, this is a purely political move. Over the next several months we'll see how the commission and the voting public choose to handle it.

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