Herbst, Kelly quarrel over 'property outside of Trumbull' (UPDATE)

First Selectman Tim Herbst said a political rival overreacted to a text message mistakenly sent to him.
First Selectman Tim Herbst said a political rival overreacted to a text message mistakenly sent to him.

UPDATE: This version of the story includes the complete exchange between First Selectman Tim Herbst and Democratic Town Committee Chairman Tom Kelly from last week.

Who's got land outside of Trumbull's borders?

That's the question that seems to be the latest divisive point between the town's Republicans and Democrats.

The already deep divide between the two parties was exacerbated Thursday afternoon following an exchange of emails from First Selectman Tim Herbst and Democratic Town Committee Chairman Tom Kelly.

Kelly, who also serves on the Board of Finance, challenged Herbst in response to the first selectman's email that inquired about a rumor that the Democratic official had purchased a home in Stratford.

"Will every elected official who owns property outside of Trumbull receive the same type of inquiry?" Kelly asked. "Because if everyone who owns property outside of Trumbull, including members of your party, does not receive the same type of inquiry, I think you are singling me out...

"We also own property in Washington State, and have for years," he added. "Do you want me to address Stratford, or Washington State as well?"

In his first email addressed to the DTC chair, Herbst said that multiple Trumbull residents had told him that Kelly was planning to move out of town in the near future.

"To confirm this speculation, we did determine that you have purchased a home in Stratford," he said. "If you were to move out of Trumbull in the near future, you would still have a little over two years remaining in your term on the Board of Finance.

"If you move, a vacancy would be created on the Board of Finance as you would no longer be an elector of the Town — a requirement in our Town Charter," the first selectman added. "This could trigger a special election to the Trumbull Board of Finance."

Herbst said he wanted to avoid "the unnecessary expense of thousands of dollars" that it would cost to conduct a special election in the spring of 2016, if Kelly was leaving town.

"I am respectfully requesting that if you intend to leave Trumbull in the near future, that you resign your seat before ballots are printed in the 2015 municipal election," Herbst said in the email addressed to Kelly.

"Doing so would allow the Trumbull voters the opportunity to choose your successor concomitantly with the other municipal elections so as to avoid added expense to the Trumbull taxpayers."


Kelly said that he already answered the question six weeks ago when he was first approached about his recent property purchase.

"My answer is still the same thing," he said. "Our house in Trumbull is not for sale. It is our home. We have no plans to put it on the market.

"I love Trumbull," he added. "I grew up here five streets away, and it is my hometown."

Among the things he loves about Trumbull, Kelly said he enjoy his great neighbors, the ringing bells of St. Theresa's and walking his dog around the community.

"I plan to continue to do the best job I can on the Trumbull Board of Finance for the next two years," he said in his second reply to Herbst.

What about when you ran?

In defense of the first selectman's badgering, Kelly said that Herbst's concern for Trumbull taxpayers fluctuates based on personal agenda.

"I admire your concern for the Trumbull taxpayers and the costs they would incur for a special election should that hypothetical that you described occur," he said.  "However, you do realize that had you been elected State Treasurer last year, it would have opened up the same opportunity for a special election for your office?"

Going on the offensive, Kelly wanted Herbst to pledge that he wouldn't run for another office if elected to a fourth term as First Selectman this fall.

"Will you pledge not to run for another office while you are First Selectman of Trumbull so that the taxpayers won't have to pay the costs of a  special election?" he asked to the first selectman.

Simple question

In a second email responding to Kelly's comments, Herbst noted that his initial question was never answered in the exchange.

"I don’t know how hard it is to answer a very simple question," the first selectman replied. "The only reason why I asked is that residents have approached me and told me you are moving out of Town. I decided to go right to the source.

"You could have very simply said, 'We own property outside of Trumbull as do others, but we have no intention of moving at this time and I plan to serve out my term,'" Herbst added.

The Republican leader said that Kelly's defensiveness indicated that the rumors of his departure were true.

"In light of how defensive and evasive you became to a very simple question, I can presume with a fair degree of certainty that the rumors are in fact true," Herbst said.

He reiterated that Kelly should "not mislead the public" and resign from his seat so the town could hold a special election at the same time as the local elections in the fall "to avoid added expense to the Trumbull taxpayers."

Serving out the term

Herbst said that barring an extreme circumstance, he has every intention of serving as first selectman for the entire term.

He added that nobody achieves a higher office without the consent of the voters.

"Therefore, I gave voters, most especially voters in Trumbull, the right to decide whether I should become the Treasurer, knowing there might be a special election or not become Treasurer," he said. "While the voters in Trumbull overwhelmingly agreed, a little more than half of the State of Connecticut did not."

The first selectman threw one final jab in the exchange before signing off.

"The difference between you and I is that I allowed the voters to make that decision for me," Herbst said. "This game of cat and mouse, with constant attempts to deflect and steer a conversation in another direction is not productive."