Charter changes up for vote on Nov. 4 ballot
Trumbull voters won’t be asked only to choose between candidates on the Nov. 4 ballot. Three questions will appear on the ballot, one on a change to the state constitution and two additional questions on changes proposed to the Trumbull Town Charter.
In July, the Town Council approved two charter change questions, after vetting recommendations made by the Charter Revision Commission.
Question 2 deals with some housekeeping issues in the charter as well as changes to the “Ethics Commission” section. It reads: “Shall there be a general revision of the Charter of the Town of Trumbull?”
Certain language in the charter was inconsistent with the Code of Ethics, according to members of the Charter Revision Commission. Deleted from the Ethics Commission section is a portion that says an individual accused of an ethics complaint “shall be entitled to confront his/her accuser.”
Question 3 deals with adding language to the charter that will require the town to fund both pensions at the required contribution amount set by the actuaries.
The question reads: “Shall there be a revision of the Charter of the Town of Trumbull to provide for the funding of its pension plans for Town employees and police in the annual budget to the annually required contributions (ARC) amounts as determined by the Town’s actuaries?”
The charter change was proposed by First Selectman Tim Herbst. With the new language, if there is an emergency, the Board of Finance can vote unanimously to not fully fund the pension, and then the Town Council must also reach a vote where no less than 18 members of 21 approve the finance board’s recommendation.
Criticism and support
Some in the community have voiced opposition to the proposed charter changes, including in letters to the editor this week, see our Opinon page. .
Last week, Town Council Democrat Vicki Tesoro said by approving Question 2 “you will be agreeing to remove a subsection of our Charter that provides every Trumbull citizen with the basic fundamental right to face your accuser in an ethics proceeding.” Tesoro argued that this removal of part of the Ethics Commission section is big government trying to take away rights.
However, others argue the change is for the better, including Town Council Chairman and Republican Carl Massaro Jr.
“In any proceeding, the accused can subpoena the accuser to challenge the accuser’s facts and credibility,” Massaro wrote in a letter this week.” More importantly, the elimination of the procedural section fortifies the integrity of the Ethics Commission process by preventing an accused from discouraging the accuser from pursuing the complaint.”
Other local Democrats have also expressed concerns about adding pension language to the Charter, though First Selectman Herbst is a proponent of the revision.
“The questions before you will guarantee that never again will either party be able to play politics with the pension fund by kicking the can and mortgaging our future,” Herbst wrote in letter to the editor. “Fully funding the annual required contribution will mean that Trumbull will finally be able to achieve a AAA credit rating.”
Tesoro argued that the Charter Revision Commission did not seek outside advice on pension language and found only one other community in the state, Greenwich, that includes a pension requirement in its charter.
“While we should always strive to fund both pensions to the ARC we should never agree to place mandatory language in our Charter,” Tesoro wrote. “This could have a devastating impact for our community.”
To see the proposed changes to the Town Charter and see the original charter, visit Trumbull-ct.gov.
Question 1 on the ballot deals with a change to the state constitution. It asks: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and to permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of an election?”
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, the state’s chief elections official, explained that “a ‘Yes’ vote on this constitutional question would not change any laws immediately, but it would permit the General Assembly to loosen our current restrictions on absentee voting and potentially enact some form of early voting, as 35 other states have done. A ‘No’ vote leaves our constitution and our election laws as they currently are.”
A portion of the Connecticut constitution outlines the state voting process, including the manner, time, and place in which voting may take place.
It mandates that ballots must be cast in person at a designated polling place on Election Day, unless specific circumstances allow a voter to obtain an absentee ballot. Exceptions to the in-person voting regulation include illness, disability, absence from town during all voting hours, or religious prohibitions.
Because the restrictions are in the state constitution, the General Assembly does not have the authority to pass any laws to change them. The constitutional amendment would give legislators greater authority to pass laws allowing voters to cast ballots without having to appear at the polls on Election Day and without having to provide a reason for voting absentee.