Town seeks to dismiss Sensible Wilton lawsuit

The Wilton Board of Selectmen has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought against it by Sensible Wilton. The motion was filed Monday, July 6, at Superior Court in Stamford. According to a schedule put in place last month, Sensible Wilton has until July 13 to file an objection. There will be a hearing July 20 when the motion will either be approved or denied.
Sensible Wilton brought the suit to compel the board to call a special town meeting, following the filing of a petition, for a vote on whether to repeal the authorization to issue bonds to renovate Miller-Driscoll School.
The Board of Selectmen — First Selectman Bill Brennan and Selectmen James Saxe, Michael Kaelin, Deborah McFadden and Richard Dubow — is represented by the law firm Cohen and Wolf. Calling Sensible Wilton’s suit a “hail-mary” attempt to overturn the September 2014 vote that approved the $50-million renovation, Cohen and Wolf based its motion on four points:

  • Sensible Wilton, formed as a referendum committee, has no right to exist according to state statute;

  • Referendum committees have no authority to petition for ordinances or bring lawsuits;

  • Sensible Wilton has no membership to represent;

  • The lawsuit is not germane to the formation of Sensible Wilton.

The main defect in Sensible Wilton’s action, according to the motion to dismiss, hinges on the fact Sensible Wilton is a referendum committee that has no authority to petition for ordinances and no authority to bring this lawsuit. Although it calls itself a political committee, the motion to dismiss claims Sensible Wilton is a referendum committee because it was formed to oppose the Miller-Driscoll renovation referendum, and as such should have been terminated months ago, after the referendum was approved.
As a referendum committee, the motion says Sensible Wilton has no legal standing to bring a lawsuit. According to the State Elections Enforcement Commission, such committees may only work to influence the outcome of a specific referendum and then must dissolve.
This also relates to the motion’s assertion the lawsuit is not germane to Sensible Wilton’s reason for forming.
In its complaint, Sensible Wilton says it has standing to bring the lawsuit “because its members, including non-parties Ruskewich and Noel, would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right …”
However, the town’s motion to dismiss argues Sensible Wilton has no members and thus no standing to bring the lawsuit. Alex Ruskewich as president and Curtis Noel as treasurer admittedly are the only members. Therefore, the motion says, Sensible Wilton has no membership to represent.
The 160-page motion also argues that Sensible Wilton’s suit is too late; the town has already issued $8 million in bonds, spent more than $1 million and committed millions more to the project.
There is also a review of the background of the special town meeting and adjourned vote, held Sept. 23 and 27, 2014, and subsequent events, including two petitions filed by Sensible Wilton and the complaint filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission. Those complaints were dismissed last month, with the exception of one violation that did not result in a fine.
Sensible Wilton’s original complaint may be read here.
The town's motion to dismiss may be read here. Supporting documents may be read here.