Wilton Selectman Dartley will not seek reappointment

After a long meeting Nov. 16, Selectman Ken Dartley disclosed that he will not seek reappointment under the newly elected Board of Selectmen, effective Dec. 1, and by that reasoning abstained from a vote to authorize the first selectman to sign and execute on behalf of the town seven contracts for the Miller-Driscoll School Project.

Explaining himself, Dartley said, “Some months ago when Jim Saxe resigned, I was asked if I might be interested in filling out his term. As many of you know, I am a regular at the town meeting, pleading the case for some fiscal responsibility, so that seniors who came here to Wilton when I did, and helped build this town, could stay in their homes, without a huge and debilitating tax. I thought, ‘Why not?’ I have the time, and I know the town. After 40 years, I ought to.

“My past in Wilton speaks for itself concerning what I think of Wilton and the people, and so I said yes. I was criticized during my interview for exercising my right to sign a legal petition, much as our founders did when they founded this nation. I explained that I did sign the petition, but I parted from that group when they decided to take legal action. And I made that very clear. I was confirmed by a majority of the board, so here I sit.

“During the election, it was always my understanding that the Miller-Driscoll project would move forward with the old board and the new board working together. That did not happen. I was told originally that my term would be the remainder of Jim’s term, which I understood to be two years.

“After I took my seat on the board, I got a copy of the Town Charter, to be sure I understood what my duties were. I found what I can only tell you was a confusing passage, which can be interpreted to mean that my term would only run until a newly elected Board of Selectmen is sworn in, and then I would need to be reappointed. I now declare that I will not seek a seat on the Board of Selectmen in the new term. And since I will not be on a new board, I don’t feel it’s fair for me to vote one way or the other, so I abstain.”

After the vote, addressing First Selectman Bill Brennan and thanking him for his years of service, Dartley reflected on what he has learned, and what he hopes his town colleagues have learned as well.

“You and I have had our differences,” Dartley said, “but we’ve always come out somehow with some kind of resolution. I thank you for your service. I thank Mike for prompting me to get onto this, but I think it’s time I move on. I really, really think that this whole process, as ugly as it’s been, like making sausage — they say you never want to watch the sausage being made — but that’s what legislation is.

“If we learn nothing else, if this board has learned nothing else, if Lynne and others have learned nothing else, is, you cannot quiet the public. You have to listen to the people whom you are serving. And to the people who say, don’t tell them anything, treat ‘em like a mushroom — and I won’t repeat the rest of that old phrase — I say, you’re not in this town. This town should be, hasn’t been, but should be, open and transparent. It’s a malady that legislators seem to catch … but you’re serving the public, and you’re not serving yourself. You better not be.”

A comment from the public urged Dartley to consider again his leaving the board.

“I wish you would reconsider,” said resident Stephen Hudspeth. “You’re a gift to this town and a very valuable part of it.”

But Dartley was firm in his decision.

“When people tell me that you have to understand at the Board of Selectmen meeting, you don’t have to listen to the people, that’s the end of the line. That’s what I was told by a prominent Wiltonian — that I don’t have to listen to the people. I don’t do that,” Dartley said.

“I would violently disagree with that,” replied Hudspeth, “obviously, and I think any right-minded person should, but Ken, you’re a tremendous resource to this town and to this board. I hope you will reconsider. I really, really, hope it.”