Special election will be held for Board of Finance seat
A special election for a Board of Finance seat will go forward, after an agreement was reached in court between the Town and Trumbull Democrats, Tom Kelly and Vicki Tesoro.
In December, Kelly, who serves on the Board of Finance, and Tesoro, a Town Council member, filed suit against Town Clerk Suzanne Burr Monaco. The suit claimed Burr Monaco refused to accept petitions for a special election for the seat, left vacant by Republican Dave Rutigliano. (See original story).
A special election can now be scheduled between Feb. 25 and July 25, according to the court agreement. The election date will be set by the Town Council but both sides say they support setting the date after school gets out for the summer. Republican Bill Haberlin is currently holding the Board of Finance seat, after being appointed by First Selectman Timothy Herbst.
While the town agreed to the special election, Tesoro said that the court entered a stipulation for judgement in favor of the plaintiffs — Kelly and Tesoro.
“Unfortunately, we had to go to court to force them to do the right thing," Tesoro said. "Leaving the politics out of it, it’s a fundamental principal of Democracy.”
Herbst responded to the agreement Friday, saying that while his administration believes there is case law to support the town clerk’s decision, he authorized Town Attorney Vincent Marino to try to settle the lawsuit and come up with a date for a special election.
Herbst questioned the intentions of Tesoro and Kelly for bringing the lawsuit forward.
“When you unmask Mr. Kelly and Ms. Tesoro’s intentions, you begin to realize that this has nothing to do with empowering the voters and has everything to do with their desire for raw political power,” Herbst said.
Tesoro and Kelly argue the Herbst administration attempted to hide the initial resignation in order to stop the possibility of an election and ensure Herbst could appoint the replacement.
“Mr. Herbst once again tried to abuse his power and bully his political opponents, just like his mentor down in New Jersey,” Kelly said. “It’s not working out well for Chris Christie — I think Mr. Herbst may want to cast a careful eye at what’s going on there in New Jersey.”
“We’re not going to stand down,” Tesoro added. “We believe in defending the right of the people — we’re representing the voters of Trumbull.”
Herbst maintains that the clerk followed Town Charter and recommendations from the Secretary of State.
“Since November’s election and the resounding message the voters sent, it’s unfortunate that Trumbull Democrats still haven’t gotten the message,” Herbst said. “They still engage in character assassinations, personal attacks, lawsuits and offer no positive agenda of how to move the Town forward.”
Below is a full statement from Herbst and a response from Tesoro and Kelly.
First Selectman Tim Herbst: Despite the fact that we believe there is case law that support’s the Town Clerk’s decision, and also the fact that she sought guidance from the Secretary of State, I authorized Town Attorney Vincent Marino to attempt to settle the lawsuit and come up with an acceptable date for a special election. I told the Town Attorney, that I did not think it was appropriate to hold a special election while school was in session. Since December 14, 2012, we have been hardening buildings to guarantee the safety of our students. As people that hold themselves out to be education advocates, I am perplexed as to why Mr. Kelly and Ms. Tesoro would want to open school buildings while school is in session and allow anyone to walk in under the auspices that they are voting without proper safeguards in place.
As the safety of school children during a school day is paramount, one suggestion we offered was that the special election be held in November of 2014, so there would be no additional cost to the taxpayers in holding a special election, no risk to student safety and holding the special election at this time would guarantee optimal turnout. Ms. Tesoro and Mr. Kelly’s attorney said they would oppose that because their likelihood of winning the election would be diminished. We then suggested that the special election be held on the date of the August primary. Senator Musto will likely be having a primary and there will likely be a primary for Governor and perhaps other constitutional offices. Mr. Kelly and Ms. Tesoro also rejected this date because they felt their chances of winning the election would be diminished because of increased Republican turnout for the primary. So now, they are willing to hold a special election at some point in July when everyone will likely be on vacation, which will represent an additional $20,000 cost to the taxpayers of Trumbull.
When you unmask Mr. Kelly and Ms. Tesoro’s intentions, you begin to realize that this has nothing to do with empowering the voters and has everything to do with their desire for raw political power. The fact that they wouldn’t agree to the August and November dates is proof of that, because their primary concern is with their chances or likelihood of winning an election and not with the right of the voter. A Republican was duly elected to this seat in 2011. The voters of Trumbull spoke very clearly in 2013. A Republican resigned and was replaced with another Republican, in accordance with the Town Charter and recommendations from the Secretary of State.
Since November’s election and the resounding message the voters sent, it’s unfortunate that Trumbull Democrats still haven’t gotten the message. They still engage in character assassinations, personal attacks, lawsuits and offer no positive agenda of how to move the Town forward. This is precisely why Nancy DiNardo and her entire executive committee have stepped down from local leadership of the Trumbull Democratic Party. The Trumbull Democratic Party has been hijacked by a group of militant partisans that are more interested in causing mayhem and chaos than moving Trumbull forward.
Tom Kelly and Vicki Tesoro: First Selectman Herbst today issued a rambling statement regarding the special election for the Board of Finance. It was full of bluster and hyperbole, and we believe it was an attempt to distract voters from the real issue at hand — the complete failure of his administration to handle the special election consistent with the Town Charter, State Law, and our Town Ordinances.
First, it is important to note the court entered a stipulation for judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, Tom Kelly and Vicki Tesoro. It’s unfortunate that we had to go to court to force Mr. Herbst to do the right thing. The judgment of the court is a validation of basic democratic principle. Today, the people of Trumbull won. Trumbull voters will have the right to choose who will fill the vacancy on the Board of Finance. Please remember that there are only six elected members who set the tax rate in the Town of Trumbull. Neither the First Selectman, nor the Town Council has that authority (unless the Board of Finance deadlocks). It's a very important position, and the term of the replacement does not expire for almost two years.
This process has been handled poorly right from the start. Mr. Rutigliano submitted an error-filled resignation letter in which he did not spell his own name correctly. He also misspelled Mr. Herbst's name. No announcement was made of this resignation, and we believe that the voters of Trumbull deserve better than that from one of their State Representatives.
At issue was the proper counting of days after Mr. Rutigliano's resignation. We researched every vacancy in elected office in Trumbull going back ten years, and found that the Town Clerk counted the days inconsistent with prior practice and precedent and that our petition was turned in within the time period prescribed by the Town Charter. Beyond this, the Town Clerk, Ms. Suzanne Burr Monaco, failed to notify the Secretary of State's Office of the vacancy within five days, as required by Connecticut State Law. She also failed to notify the Town Clerk within five days of the appointment of a successor, also required by State Law. There is also a Trumbull Town Ordinance that requires the Town Clerk to post notice of the vacancy in the newspaper within three days of a vacancy. She did not do so.
Mr. Herbst says that the Town Clerk received direction from the Secretary of State's Office on this matter. We can't disprove that, but we have an email from Ted Bromley at the Secretary of State's Office saying he doesn't recall talking to anyone from the Town Clerk's Office in Trumbull, and if he did, he would have said that this matter is governed by local charter. We have previously provided a copy of that email to the Trumbull Times.
Last, but not least, Mr. Herbst questions why we didn't agree to hold the special election almost a year from now, in November of 2014, or in August of 2014. Again, he fails to note that there is a State Law which says that the special election MUST be scheduled within 150 days of the submission of the petition. Mr. Herbst may feel that he has so much power that he is free to negotiate for dates outside of the period required by State Law. Mr. Herbst may feel that he's a free agent whose whimsy is not subject to the law. We do not.
Mr. Herbst refuses to acknowledge the failure of his administration to handle this process correctly and consistent with the law. Instead, he attacks us. Perhaps he thinks he's above the law. Perhaps it's the arrogance of power. We will not be intimidated by his bullying and disregard for the law and the charter. We are standing up for a basic principle of democracy and that is that the voters should decide. The decision of the court today allows for that to happen. We look forward to the special election, and presenting our vision for the town of Trumbull. We promise to run an excellent candidate who will do a great job for Trumbull. Thank you for reading.