Judge shoots down motion to reargue districts

After months of petitions and legal battles, First Selectman Tim Herbst and Trumbull Citizens for 7 Districts spokesman Regina Haley may have inadvertently reached common ground this week, after Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis rejected the group’s motion to reargue their case.

“Tim Herbst said, ‘If people really want seven voting districts, then elect Town Council representatives who favor changing to seven districts,’” Haley said. “We are working hard to make this happen.”

Bellis’s denial of the motion to reargue is the latest setback for the group, which is seeking a referendum on returning the town’s 21-member Town Council to seven districts from the current four. Members had previously collected nearly 3,000 petition signatures to bring the issue to a vote. The court battle began when council Chairman Carl Massaro, after consulting the town’s attorneys, declined to place the issue on the council’s agenda.

The town argued, and Bellis ruled, that state statutes dictate that voting districts be decided by a town’s legislative body. The petitioners, through their attorney, Joel Green of Bridgeport-based Green & Gross, had asked Bellis to reconsider her decision based on their interpretation of “legislative body.” Under the town’s system in which residents may petition for referendum on a wide variety of issues, the electorate as a whole could be considered a legislative body, they argued.

Bellis rejected that argument, which was not a surprise, given that she was ruling on the legality of her own previous ruling. Haley has said the filing of the motion to reargue was a legal formality more than anything else, describing it as “a simple step to keep our options open if we chose to appeal the case.”