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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.

Steve Bristol February 14, 2012 at 03:03 PM
So, we're having a charter revision just three years after the last one and for no other reason than the First Selectman wanted one and the DTC wanted another nibble at the apple. No 'charging' the CRC with a specific cause, simply the Town Clerk parroting what the FS mentioned shortly after the election--which, of course, was NOT mentioned as part of his platform. This move seems quite a bit like the major bonding program that the public was not able to vote on individually and with no 'hard' figures per project. Oh yeah, if WF's dream comes true, spending money will be made even easier. Now for the individual suggestions. We don't even give our Congressmen a 4 year term. It lessens the accountability factor--which doesn't seem to be a concern of many in town. It doesn't really change the concept of having to campaign--I can't remember the last time I heard anything other than "I'm the Democrat. I've been in the job for a long time." Regarding not seating the FS "loser": You likely eliminate a person who was willing to work 24/7 being where the buck stops. It would be like telling the Brits they have to get rid of 'the loyal opposition." It certainly prevents a different point of view. Changing the BOF make-up: that tie vote is a valuable check on spending needlessly.
Steve Bristol February 14, 2012 at 03:03 PM
cont..... Why now? It can only be due to the Pres. election this Fall in a town very likely to vote BHO back in and the DTC/FS see this as their best chance to push their revisions through. It also just happens to make sure these revisions are in place while they were 'in charge.' Further, I have no doubt that those who now desperately want these (and more) changes would be crying foul were the tables turned. From discussions among RTC members and many others I know opposed to this current revision would NOT support it under any conditions.
susan alon February 14, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Without any further discussion-- just the proposal of a four year term for Selectman is unacceptable. Especially in light of current irregularities and seeming cronyism, it is imperative we are not locked into a four year cycle with our town governance. Four year terms are far too long and encourage special interests far too much. Why does anyone think this is a good idea?
Fran M. February 14, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I thought switching to a "Town Manager" was going to be considered as part of the Charter Revision committee? Or is that what a 4-yr term First Selectman is supposed to be? ;) I don't mind the idea of a 4-yr Selectman's term, but I'd like to hear more about alternatives as well. Offhand, I don't really like the concept of the FS loser not being allowed to sit on the BOS. That candidate is presumably either party's strongest BOS candidate...excluding them arbitrarily doesn't make sense. Of course, they should get a seat only if they beat out all other candidates... I don't understand all the rules with "alternates" and voting. I get the sense that "alternates" are used quite frequently though, at regular meetings. It would seem to place more burden on the non-alternates to attend every meeting, etc.
Fay Abrahamsson (Editor) February 14, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Susan - there will be plenty of time for discussion on these suggested changes to the Town Charter and other suggestions from the public. There will be at least three public hearings. Please look to Patch for the dates of these meetings as they become available. I encourage you to attend the public hearings and voice your thoughts and opinions. Thanks.
Steve Bristol February 14, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Fran The Town manager was proposed by the Republican candidate. Had Mrs. Walter won, she could have asked the BOS to convene a CRC and had the entire board 'charge' the CRC with specifics to consider. The alternative would be a private citizen initiating a petition for such a move. That would require the signatures of a minimum of 10% of the electorate. Which brings up the curious situation we have right now. The BOS did not charge the CRC. Instead, as the BOS minutes state, the Town Clerk---a private citizen not on the appointing authority---gave the CRC her recommendations. This represents the de facto charge to the CRC. HOWEVER, it was not accompanied by any petition containing the signatures of 10% of the electorate. This is just the latest effort by the Fritz administration/DTC to obfuscate the rules by which we are governed.
mrshess February 14, 2012 at 06:06 PM
NOOOOOOO!!!! We need a fiscally responsible First Selectman. From all I've read, he's not. I still want to know exactly what happened with that fiasco with the landing behind town hall. Did Willie really write a check from a town account that he had no right to? I want to know how why two women on P&Z didn't recuse themselves over that land and building fiasco next to the police department. I want to know why misuse of that building hasn't resulted in any sanctions for the lawyer. I want to know how that whole "land swap" transpired. Who benefitted? Most of all, I want to know how he is going to prevent our taxes from going sky-high when we lose (for the second year in a row) one of our biggest taxpayers, Unilever. What definitive plans does he have for the clean-up of downtown in order to attract businesses and new families? Personally, I voted for Ray Apel (sp?) and am surprised more people did not. Are we ready for a strong leader with new ideas to step up? I really think it's time- Willie has been in office far too long, in my opinion. Note: As usual, I really want the answers to these questions- these should not be perceived as attacks. There are many Clintonians out there who have followed town politics a lot longer (and better) than me.
Randy Watson February 14, 2012 at 07:18 PM
So, Mr. Fritz wants a four year term. I know these ‘suggestions’ were submitted by the town clerk. However, it is clear that Willie and friends have had input in this matter. There has also been talk of a ‘proposed pension’ for our esteemed leader, although that didn’t make it into the ‘initial’ list of suggestions. I wonder why? It’s funny, I recall Willie scoffing at the idea of a town planner during the candidate forum this past election season, saying it is was better to have an elected leader who could be voted out in two years if they were doing a poor. Why the change of heart? If two years was fine and dandy during election time, why is it so bad now? I have a suggestion, I will support the four year term with one condition: we impose a term limit of a total of eight years for our First Selectman. I’m guessing Willie won’t be too fond of that because he wouldn’t be able to run again, but I think it is a fine compromise.
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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