This story has been updated from the original breaking news piece from Tuesday, June 16.
The CT State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC) issued a decision Tuesday morning, June 16 on Sensible Wilton‘s complaint against Wilton and its officials, dismissing all charges of election violations brought by the group against the town. After the SEEC’s investigator looked into evidence provided by Sensible Wilton, the SEEC unanimously found that there were no election violations committed by the town or officials.
The complaint stemmed from the Special Town Meeting and vote on the Miller-Driscoll Renovation Bonding Resolution held on Sept. 23, 2014 (adjourned vote Sept. 27), which Sensible Wilton alleged should be invalidated due to violations in election law made by town officials.
“I’m pleased with the decision obviously, because I think throughout this whole matter the town has tried to act appropriately. There’s been a lot of allegations made that were not substantiated. We’ve tried to do this, the election was a certified election. We just want to get on with building the school for the children of Wilton,” first selectman Bill Brennan said in reaction.
He added, “This has been a great deal of effort and harassment, but in the end I’ve always been convicted that we would prevail.”
(To read the decision in full, click here.)
Alex Ruskewich, the president of Sensible Wilton, said he would refrain from commenting until after he was able to read the actual decision handed down by the SEEC. He has not yet responded to GMW.com’s request for comment.
Other town officials offered their reactions to Tuesday’s SEEC decision.
Karen Birck, the co-chair of the M-D Building Committee, said that, “The decision speaks for itself.”
Selectman Deborah McFadden (who was not on the BoS at the time of the Sept. 2014 vote, but who has since been involved in decisions regarding Sensible Wilton petitions) said, “I’m thrilled, I expected it.”
Board of Education chair Bruce Likly was likewise happy with the decision and hopeful that the town could move on.
“We are pleased to see the outcome of Sensible Wilton’s complaints in favor of the Town and its employees and volunteers and hope this will bring an end to this topic. While it was a close vote, the Miller Driscoll building project was legally passed by voters and we applaud the work the Building Committee is doing to move the project ahead cost effectively while working to incorporate thinking and feedback from the community,” he said.
There was one violation that the SEEC reportedly did find, against Miller-Driscoll principal Cheryl Jensen-Gerner. They found that while Jensen-Gerner tried hard not to violate election law and advised others to a similar effect, she inadvertently did so by making an announcement following a parents’ night. The commission found that she was unaware of a new section of the law–a section reportedly so new that this was the first complaint ever raised about it. Jensen-Gerner was not fined, but was given a caution.
Court Date Still To Come June 22
There is still a court date the Sensible Wilton has with town officials next week, on June 22. This stems from a suit the group filed to compel town officials to hold another town meeting and vote on the M-D bond. Brennan hopes the SEEC decision will have some sort of bearing on how the court will act on Tuesday.
“I don’t know how these courts function on a matter such as this. We have a very strong case, we’re very well prepared and in the end we will prevail. A lot of the comments that have come out of the SW group have been using terms ‘elections violations.’ They’ve never said ‘alleged’ election or campaign violations, and that is just not accurate. I think this [SEEC decision] will greatly diminish that claim which they’ve included in their lawsuit. This has put that issue to bed, and I think it will have a bearing to some degree on how the court looks at this,” he said.
He says he’s intent on looking and moving forward. “I won’t be predicting, but in the end we will prevail. When it’s all done, and people are marching their children up to the front door [of the renovated school], they will be tremendously impressed. It’s exciting development, it’s long overdue. We’re not trying to be excessive in any way. Out of all this, the children will benefit from all this work of boards and lawyer.”
One thing that Brennan isn’t happy about is the negative impact the case has had, and what he sees as the cost to the town, both in the negative sentiments that may dissuade some people from volunteering to serve Wilton as well as in a financial toll.
“The legal fees have been very expensive dealing with this. We as citizens, we are all paying for it. I’m delighted the SEEC ruled as they did and we’re going to get on with completing the project,” he says.
Hopefully now that the seec has rule there was no election violation, that the law suit will be shutdown and we can proceed.
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