Sensible Wilton is undecided on next move

The Wilton Board of Selectmen is adamant it cannot call a revote on the Miller-Driscoll renovation project, its members announced at its Tuesday, Feb. 17 meeting.

An activist group, Sensible Wilton, has repeatedly asked the board to call a “legal revote” on the project, which originally passed by Special Town Meeting in September, 2014.

The board based its decision on a legal opinion written by Town Counsel Ken Bernhard that stated Wilton’s town regulations do not permit citizens to petition the Board of Selectmen to call a Special Town Meeting on bonding issues.

“To me, this isn’t a close question,” said Selectman Michael Kaelin, a past member of Wilton’s charter commission. “There’s no authority… for us on the board to order a revote. We just do not have the legal authority to do that.”

First Selectman Bill Brennan added: “We must abide by rules, but not just when its convenient for us to do so.”

Near the end of his remarks, Mr. Kaelin suggested Sensible Wilton take its grievances to state court, since his board cannot call the revote they desire.

“The only agency with authority are the courts of the state of Connecticut,” he said.

Sensible Wilton

Alex Ruskewich, the leader of Sensible Wilton, did not specifically address legal arguments over the Board of Selectman’s charter authorities Tuesday, but reiterated his organization’s belief that the town violated elections laws during the run-up to the initial vote.

The State Elections Enforcement Commission is currently looking into his group’s accusations against the town.

“No expenditure should be made to influence the vote, in favor or against. There is documented evidence this was done,” he said. “This is the reason why we are looking to have a revote.

“If I were a Brooklyn bookie, I’d call it a trifecta [of election violations]. They managed to have advocacy, utilization of public facilities, and they targeted a specific subsets of people,” he said later.

Bring it to court?

Mr. Ruskewich said Thursday morning his group has not yet decided whether it will bring its case before a judge.

Its members are weighing the cost of a lawsuit, and how long it might take, he said. They say they won’t take action until after the completion of an SEEC investigation.

“We feel our position would be much stronger once the SEEC makes its decision,” he said.

The SEEC does not set a time-frame for their review process.

Simple complaints, SEEC representative Josh Foley said last year, can be settled in one week. Longer complaints may take months to fully investigate.

The SEEC announced the beginning of its investigation into the matter last October.

In favor of a revote

Other members of the public reiterated Mr. Ruskevich’s claim that school and town officials improperly influenced the vote.

“I was flabbergasted because everybody with little children all told me they were encouraged by the school to come out to that vote.I have a 20 year old son, and people a little bit older said they didn't know what was going on. It seems like a fast one was pulled,” said Wiltonian Allison Mark.

“The schools improperly used communications systems to target parents… and undue influence [was exerted over] a selected group. That’s not permitted,” added Wiltonian Marianne Gustavson.

On the other side

A number of residents also spoke out against the idea of a revote, agreeing with Mr. Bernhard that anyone who voted in the original Special Town Meeting would be disenfranchised by a second election.

“The petitioners are asking the Board of Selectmen to do something that does not exist under the town charter… from a constitutional perspective, it would be effectively disenfranchising [the first voters],” Mr. Bernhard said. “Those voters could credibly argue a violation of their rights under the state constitution.”

David Waters, a member of the Police Commission speaking as a resident, said “what happens if you have a vote, and now you have 2000 votes one way, and 2050 vote the other? You've now allowed [the idea that] maybe you have to have a third revote.”