Wilton selectmen ordered to court for Powers lawsuit

The Wilton Board of Selectmen is to respond to a lawsuit filed by Michael Powers on Monday, Oct. 28, at Stamford Superior Court.

The Wilton Board of Selectmen is to respond to a lawsuit filed by Michael Powers on Monday, Oct. 28, at Stamford Superior Court.

Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media

Defendants — or their attorney — named in the lawsuit Michael Powers has brought against the town of Wilton have been summoned to Stamford Superior Court on Monday, Oct. 28, to show cause why the temporary injunction requested in the suit should not be granted.

Powers named the town and members of the Board of Selectmen — First Selctwoman Lynne Vanderslice, Second Selectman David K. Clune, Selectman Joshua Cole, and Selectwomen Lori Bufano and Deborah McFadden — in his lawsuit that was filed Sept. 29.

Powers, a petitioning candidate for first selectman, alleges the Board of Selectmen did not, on a number of occasions, follow Robert’s Rules of Order for making a motion and thus those motions are “null and void.”

Powers has applied for a temporary and permanent injunction, claiming 37 of the board’s motions during 2019 did not meet the standard for motions according to Robert’s Rules. As such, he says, those motions must be vacated and future motions must follow Robert’s Rules and other provisions of town policy.

In an email to The Bulletin, Powers said “where there is no specific language in the Town Charter or other town documents regarding the conduct of these meetings, Robert’s Rules of Order is the default. Robert’s Rules of Procedures controls controls all meetings of all boards and committees, unless there is specific contradictory policy or procedure written in the Town Charter or other town documents.

“The injunction I filed is intended to require the town to adhere to its own policies and procedures. This requirement ensures that the backroom Chicago politics of years past, does not exist today and that the government of Wilton is open and transparent to all,” he said.

The Bulletin reviewed the video of the Sept. 9 board meeting, at which Powers said it violated Robert’s Rules in an exchange during which Vanderslice asked for a motion to not file for an extension and pay additional funds to extend the ZREC (Zero Emissions Renewable Energy Credit) for the high school.

According to the video, there was considerable discussion of the ZREC issue with facilities director Chris Burney before a motion was made. At which point Vanderslice says, “OK, so we’re all good. Would somebody like to make that motion?”

Clune says, “so moved.”

Vanderslice says, “OK, Dave. Second?”

Bufano seconds. Vanderslice then asks, “any questions, any discussion?”

No one offers any discussion. Vanderslice asks, “all in favor?” As a whole, the board says, “aye.”

Vanderslice then thanks Burney and the board moves on.

When asked for more specificity as to how the exchange violated Robert’s Rules, Powers replied with what he said are six essential steps to a valid motion, three by which the motion is brought before the assembly, and three in the consideration of the motion. His remarks focused on the first three:

 A member makes the motion by saying “I move that …” with concise language.

 Another member seconds the motion, although this is not required because of the small size of the Board of Selectmen.

 The chair states the question on the motion, stating the exact motion and indicating it is open to debate.

By saying “so moved,” Clune does not announce what motion he is proposing, according to Powers. “The utterance made by Clune does not meet the standard set forth in Robert’s Rules of Order for a motion. Any possible motion proposed by Clune stating ‘so moved’ is therefore ‘Out of Order,’ and consequently ‘Null and Void,’” Powers said.

As for stating the question, Vanderslice did not state the exact motion that was put forth by Clune, which, according to Powers, was not valid.

“A correct statement by Vanderslice regarding the pending motion would be to state with specificity the wording put forth by Clune. Here, Vanderslice skips this process in its entirety and moves forward with debate,” Powers said. “The failure of Vanderslice to properly state the question violates Robert’s Rules of Order for a motion, and the proposed motion is therefore ‘Out of Order,’ and consequently ‘Null and Void.’”

“At this point the motion proposed by Clune is ‘Out of Order’ on two separate and distinct violations of Robert’s Rules of Order, and therefore, ‘Null and Void,’” he said.