Wilton officials are scheduled to appear in CT Superior Court in Stamford today, Monday, June 22, following a lawsuit filed by Sensible Wilton against the town on June 1. That suit asks the court to compel the town of Wilton and its Board of Selectmen to call a town meeting to readdress the Miller-Driscoll renovation project. It names the Board of Selectmen, as well as each of the selectmen as defendants, including first selectman Bill Brennan, second selectman James Saxe, and selectmen Michael Kaelin, Deborah McFadden and Richard Dubow.

The court has ordered the parties (and/or attorneys) to appear today for a status/settlement conference; while evidence will not be presented at that meeting, the court will determine if resolution can be reached without further litigation. If no resolution is reached today, then an evidentiary hearing will be scheduled, most usually ‘within two weeks,’ according to the order.

Today’s hearing has become increasingly important to the members of Sensible Wilton, especially since the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC) just last week dismissed complaints that the group filed last year against the town. The SEEC found that the town and its officials violated no election laws (although in one complaint school principal Cheryl Jensen-Gerner was found to have ‘inadvertently’ violated a new section of law; she was not fined).

“I’m surprised and disappointed,” Sensible Wilton president Alex Ruskewich said after hearing about the dismissal last Tuesday. He says he still feels the “documented evidence we provided” showed violations, even though the commission found otherwise.

In fact, Ruskewich tells GOOD Morning Wilton that he has filed a third complaint with the SEEC about what he says are different violations. ‘This one shows the town paying for the trifold [marketing] brochure,” he says. Ruskewich filed this latest complaint two days before the SEEC’s announced its dismissal last Tuesday.

“The SEEC law states that only neutral brochures can be provided by the town. Not only does it state that fact, but it states that it has to be approved by the town’s attorney and voted on by the Bd. of Selectmen. We could not find any evidence of the fact that this was approved by the town’s attorney, we could find no written evidence, and we could find no evidence that the BoS ever voted on it,” Ruskewich explained.

Even if the SEEC sides with Sensible Wilton on this new complaint, however, the most they can do is state that there was a violation and issue a fine. Separately from today’s lawsuit, a possible victory with the SEEC won’t compel a new vote.

“That’s correct,” he says. “They can issue a fine, up to a maximum of $1,000. They can issue a cease-and-desist order, which basically means, ‘Don’t do it again.’ The third thing they can do is come up with an … interpretation. They can’t issue a revote–we always knew that.”

And if that third complaint gets dismissed as well?

“Then I don’t submit any more, because it’s useless. Right now I’m rather disappointed even with the analysis they did on the first, and I’m rather discouraged. And I think a lot of other people are also,” Ruskewich said.

That’s why, he says, they’re hopeful about the lawsuit and today’s hearing.

“We’re going to see if the legal system will agree with our lawyer that the citizens of the town are really the legislative body of the town,” Ruskewich said. “We feel we have a right to petition. What would be the harm of having another vote where everybody gets a chance to give their opinion? You lose? You lose.”

Undoubtedly, opponents of Ruskewich’s stance would argue that there already was a vote where residents already had that chance to make their opinions known. Without doubt they’d say, ‘Sensible Wilton, you did lose. There was an election.

“An unfair election,” Ruskewich responds.

What about the cost and damage to the town?

But what of the criticism that Sensible Wilton’s continued actions–and what some critics have said are personal attacks on the town officials–are not only significantly hurting the town financially with legal costs and time spent dealing with these matters, but they’re also turning off potential new volunteers who don’t want to serve in any governmental capacity for fear they could be pulled into the quagmire.

“Let me take the other side of it. The reason we’re doing all of this is because the town withheld information from the beginning,” he said. “When you do something that is so specifically unfair, that’s what we are protesting against. We are looking for full transparency. There are some who are unhappy with our actions–I’ll grant you that. But there were 1,100 people who were unhappy with the actions of the town,” he said.

He adds that many of the actions his group and others are taking are because not only hasn’t the town been transparent or provided information, but that he believes the town has on occasion used its legal power to block such information from getting out.

“It’s the same thing they’re saying because they’re demonizing people filing Freedom of Information requests. The only reason people file that is because they don’t get the information. If the information were readily available, you wouldn’t have to file that. Not only that but they send the lawyers up there to fight against it,” Ruskewich alleges. “When they say it’s costing the town so much money, it’s not costing them to do the Freedom of Information act, it’s costing them to prevent people from getting the information.”

As for the lawsuit, says Simon W. Reiff, the attorney (and Wilton resident) representing Sensible Wilton, the group is not seeking monetary damages nor are they asking for an injunction to stop any work on the project from proceeding at this time. “The purpose it only to get an expedited court date and get a vote at the earliest possible date,” he told GMW.com earlier.