Last Thursday evening, Sept. 17, the Wilton Republican Town Committee met to choose their nominee to replace James Saxe on the Board of Selectmen. The following afternoon, RTC chair Al Alper told GOOD Morning Wilton that his organization had picked Ken Dartley.
Dartley’s name will be presented to the Board of Selectmen at its meeting tonight, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m., at which time the selectmen must vote on his nomination to replace Saxe.
Alper said that Dartley was the only candidate voted on by the wider RTC membership. There were also two other individuals, however, who were originally vetted and considered by the subcommittee that put together a list of potential candidates, according to RTC member Warren Serenbetz, who chaired that smaller group.
“The subcommittee interviewed three candidates [and] was unanimous in its choice of Ken Dartley for that position. The subcommittee made that recommendation to the full RTC on Thursday night,” Serenbetz wrote in an email. He also said that one of the other two candidates kept his/her name in contention almost until the last minute, but eventually withdrew from consideration in executive session before the full RTC convened.
Serenbetz declined to identify the other two people considered by the subcommittee, citing confidentiality of executive session. “Vetting sessions and names of candidates interviewed are confidential unless they ask to be considered by the full RTC.”
Serenbetz also said that out of the approximately 20-plus members who were at Thursday evening’s RTC meeting, the majority endorsed Dartley, with one ‘Nay’ vote and one abstention.
The town charter outlines the process for filling the vacancy on the BoS, placing the responsibility with the members of the BoS itself. Tonight the four remaining members of the BoS will vote on whether or not to approve the RTC nomination and appoint Dartley to the open seat. In the case of a tie (two for, two oppose), the town charter specifies that first selectman Bill Brennan will cast a tie-breaking vote.
Precedent exists for a board to reject the party nomination; such a situation occurred about 12 years ago when the DTC provided one name to the Board of Education as that party’s choice to fill an open seat, and the BoE chose someone else instead.
While it is not spelled out in the charter (or state statue) that the town boards must consult the party-affiliated town committees for a candidate to fill a vacancy, it is long-standing practice. Such was the process most recently when Republican selectman Hal Clark resigned and the RTC offered Michael Kaelin as their nominee to fill the seat, and the BoS approved Kaelin; similarly, when Democrat Ted Hoffstatter resigned, the BoS approved the DTC’s choice, Deb McFadden.
Saxe resigned at the last BoS meeting on Sept. 8. Serenbetz said that if Dartley is approved by the BoS, he will complete Saxe’s term, which expires in Nov. 2017.
Editor’s note: There is possibly a different scenario regarding the length of term, that GMW is pursuing. We’ve reached out to Wilton’s town counsel for clarification, and will update accordingly as soon as we have confirmation.