In a statement issued late Sunday afternoon, May 17, the group calling itself Sensible Wilton declared that the town has erroneously refused the most recent petition its members submitted to the town, and says the Board of Selectmen “must” call a special town meeting–threatening to sue the town if officials refuse.
“Sensible Wilton concludes that the Board of Selectmen has no discretion in the matter and must schedule a Special Town Meeting to vote on the proposed ordinance in its April 2015 petition, failing which Sensible Wilton will commence litigation to pursue the electors’ rights as secured by the Charter,” the statement reads.
The Board of Selectmen has a regularly scheduled meeting tonight (7:30 p.m., Rm. B Town Hall), and the issue of the Sensible Wilton petition is the only major item listed on the BoS agenda. That petition collected signatures of people who want the town to call a Special Meeting to vote on an ordinance to repeal the bond resolution funding the Miller-Driscoll renovation, approved at a special town vote in September. Kenneth Bernhard, Wilton’s town counsel, has already issued his opinion stating why he believes the town is not obligated under the Town Charter to create such an ordinance.
Along with yesterday’s statement, Sensible Wilton included a legal opinion written by their attorney, Simon W. Reiff. In it he calls Bernhard’s opinion a “nonsensical interpretation of the Charter,” which “…fails to withstand scrutiny.” He also states that he will attend the BoS meeting tonight, and he, “…respectfully requests the opportunity to be heard and to respond to any comments that may be made by Attorney Bernhard regarding the Petition.” [EDITOR’S NOTE, 10:30 a.m. The entire opinion document has been added as pictures to the end of the article. Click on each picture to enlarge.]
Below is the full text of the statement sent to media:
“On two cold March days, Sensible Wilton collected over 290 signatures to petition the Town of Wilton for a Town Meeting to repeal the ordinance approving the Miller-Driscoll renovation project. Though we could have collected many more, we decided that once we passed the Town Charter requirement, time was of the essence.
“As we have stated many times, we believe that there is work to be done at Miller-Driscoll due to the neglect of maintenance and age of parts of the infrastructure. We continue to believe the original referendum was not conducted in accordance with State law and that all the citizens of Wilton were not provided information that would have allowed them to make an informed decision on the solution proposed.
“We are asking the Town to convene a special Town meeting where all sides could present their opinions and arguments as to what would be best for Wilton.
“As set forth in detail in the attached letter to the Board of Selectmen from Sensible Wilton’s attorney, Sensible Wilton contends that its petition, filed on April 1, 2015, properly seeks repeal of the September 2014 bond authorization. Under the Wilton Town Charter, the Town Meeting has the power to adopt, amend, or repeal ordinances, though an ordinance may be amended or repealed only by another ordinance. Moreover, the electors have the power of initiative by submitting a petition signed by at least 2-percent of the electors to propose an ordinance to repeal an existing ordinance. A careful examination of the Charter’s relevant provisions shows that the September 2014 bond authorization for the Miller-Driscoll School was an exercise of the Town Meeting’s “ordinance” power, and therefore, that same ordinance power likewise entitles the Town Meeting to repeal the September 2014 bond authorization through a new ordinance. Furthermore, a different provision of the Charter expressly authorizes the electors of Wilton to have the power of initiative to petition for a Special Town Meeting to propose an ordinance to repeal an existing ordinance, precisely what it seeks to accomplish with its petition.
“Sensible Wilton also notes that although the Charter admittedly requires proposals for issuance of bonds to originate with the Board of Selectmen, and precludes the power of initiative from being exercised to petition for issuance of bonds, no such limitation exists with respect to proposals to repeal existing bond authorizations. In addition, and in response to a prior opinion letter from Town Counsel Kenneth Bernhard dated May 6, 2015 arguing that the bond authorization was a “resolution” not susceptible to repeal under the ordinance provisions of the Charter, Sensible Wilton cites case law affirmed by the Supreme Court of Connecticut holding that a resolution may be trumped by a voter-initiated ordinance.
“Sensible Wilton concludes that the Board of Selectmen has no discretion in the matter and must schedule a Special Town Meeting to vote on the proposed ordinance in its April 2015 petition, failing which Sensible Wilton will commence litigation to pursue the electors’ rights as secured by the Charter.”
I find the word “sue” in the headline totally misleading. Sensible Wilton is asking the Town to call a Special Town Meeting based on our attorney’s, and my, reading of the Town Charter. If the Town continues to reject our request, we have no recourse except to go to the courts for a legal decision. The word “sue” implies that we are looking for monetary damages, we are not. We are trying to protect the rights of our citizens.
To sue: “to use a legal process by which you try to get a court of law to force a person, company, or organization that has treated you unfairly or hurt you in some way to give you something or to do something”
I believe you are threatening to initiate litigation to use a court of law to force the Town of Wilton to do something. Is this accurate? If so, then so is Heather’s terminology.
The cycle of town mismanagement, non-transparency, and illegal referendums are about to come to an end. Keep up the great work Sensible Wilton.
Alex: Miriam Webster’s definition of ‘sue’: “to use a legal process by which you try to get a court of law to force a person, company, or organization that has treated you unfairly or hurt you in some way to give you something or to do something : to bring a lawsuit against someone or something” Here’s the link: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sue
In the many definitions given, there is not one mention of money at all, nor did I write anything indicating Sensible Wilton was suing for money. I didn’t even address cost–to Sensible Wilton or to the town–at all.
Interestingly, the ‘obsolete’ definition of the intransitive usage is “to make petition to or for.”
Is there a place on the web to see a detailed breakdown of the $50 million? I keep hearing from supporters that “this is what it costs in Fairfield County”. But that is totally misleading. It may be what it costs to build WHAT THE TEAM SPECIFIED. Perhaps we have specified too much.
Examples: We know the building needs new windows. Did we just spec new windows (cheaper) or did we change the window size/placement (very expensive). Are we loading the building with senseless technology? The town has a tendency to go hog wild on technology that has no payback (ref: failed fiber project). This is preschool, we don’t need much more than simple wireless access in the building. Does this design include more than that?
I don’t know if you can get a detailed breakdown, you may try BOE or the committee in charged. But please keep in mind the 50mm is an estimate prior to bids. While they have specifications some details need to be worked out. In 2008 we had a 21MM estimate for the High School Renovation that once bid came out to be only 16MM. We may find the same thing here. In the past the town has been very good about giving high end estimates and rarely do they go over it. and a lot of times come in under the estimate. OF course there are always unknowns and they could be low
It seems it is not BOS but Sensible Wilton with a position built on sand. They state from the article above “Sensible Wilton also notes that although the Charter admittedly requires proposals for issuance of bonds to originate with the Board of Selectmen, and precludes the power of initiative from being exercised to petition for issuance of bonds, no such limitation exists with respect to proposals to repeal existing bond authorizations. ”
But to say BOS can start the process and once approved by the voters, the voters can then somehow repeal a bond is crazy. Can we vote to repeal bonds already issued? An issuance of a bond is not an ordinance, hence can’t be repealed. If we could simply repeal bond votes, that would freeze town action, and nothing could be done.
Please Insensible Wilton, stop costing the town money.
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