Log In

Reset Password

With No 'Effective Date' Charter's Future Is Uncertain



Text Size

With No ‘Effective Date’ Charter’s Future Is Uncertain

By Steve Bigham

Bill Brimmer got word this week that he could soon be out of a job as a member of the Board of Selectmen… even if he gets reelected in November. The same is true for fellow selectman Joe Bojnowski.

An apparent oversight has created a situation where the proposed changes to the town charter – if approved – would go into effect 30 days after the election.

Charter Revision Commission members say their original intention was to have the changes go into effect two years from now – in Dec. 2003. Since an “effective date” was left off the proposal to be on the ballot, however, that is no longer possible.

First Selectman Herb Rosenthal confirmed this fact Monday night, explaining that the state statutes require that all changes, upon approval by the voters, must go into effect within 30 days unless otherwise noted.

“You could potentially elect a Board of Selectmen and on December 6, they’re out of office,” Mr Rosenthal said. “Clearly the intent of everybody was for this to take place in two years. It was just an oversight that nobody caught.”

The proposed new charter also proposes the creation of a six-member Board of Finance to work with the first selectman and Legislative Council on long-range financial planning. Right now, if changed, Mr Rosenthal, as first selectman, would be authorized to appoint all six members.

Also, the proposed changes to the town charter provide for a stronger first selectman with veto power over the Legislative Council. The possibility of this change could effect how voters look at the two candidates: Herb Rosenthal and Owen Carney.

This week, Charter Revision Commission Chairman Bill Sheluck acknowledged the problem, but said he felt confident that David Grogins, attorney for both the town and the now-disbanded Charter Revision Commission, would be able to find some way around it.

“I still think there’s a way to address it. I think the town attorney has a fair amount of discretion with respect to some of these issues,” Mr Sheluck said. “We made these changes with the assumption that they would not take effect until following the next election. If you go with what was intended to occur, the town attorney could make a reasonable case for ruling to that effect.”

On Wednesday, however, Mr Rosenthal was not as confident.

“We’re still looking for ways, but David [Grogins] is not optimistic that we’re going to find something in the statutes,” he said.

In the past, any changes to the town charter went into effect two years after being approved. In those cases, according to Town Clerk Cindy Simon, an “effective date” was included on the ballot.

The “omission” could end up being a fatal flaw in the proposal. There are some in town – including Planning & Zoning Chairman Dan Fogliano – who have indicated they would support the proposed charter changes if they were to take effect in two years. Their feelings would change, however, if those changes were rushed into effect a month after the election.

The Legislative Council took up the issue Wednesday night and members felt it was important to give Newtown residents “full and fair disclosure” about what has happened.

Doug Brennan suggested that the town simply add the 2003 “effective date” onto the ballot.

“It was the charter revision’s intention, it was the first selectman’s intention and it was this council’s intention that the changes not take place for two years,” he said. “These people are out campaigning and to have a sham as a vote is unconscionable.”

That would be against the law, explained Donald Studley, who suggested the council seek further legal advice to see if there is any way the “effective date” could be added.

Dan Rosenthal criticized attorneys David Grogins and David Chipman who were paid a “boat load of money” for their “colossal oversights” in missing the flaw in their review of the charter.

“My feeling is they really screwed up and they should be apologizing to us,” he said.

Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply