Sensible Wilton to petition for special town meeting, revote

A group of residents calling for a revote on the Miller-Driscoll renovation referendum said Monday they have launched their final campaign against the vote, though Wilton’s town attorney says such a campaign would not be legally valid.

According to press materials, Sensible Wilton will begin collecting petition signatures this week in an attempt to call a special town meeting at which it would propose a revote on the $50 million renovation project.

In its press release, Sensible Wilton suggests that Wilton’s town charter grants residents the authority to petition for a special town meeting to consider a revote on a bonding referendum.

Wilton’s town counsel Ken Bernhard, however, told The Bulletin on Monday afternoon he questions the group’s understanding of the law.

It appears that Sensible Wilton “has overlooked section C-9 B (1), which identifies those instances where a petition request is applicable. Specifically excluded from the list is the option to petition for a reverse of a vote of approve of a bond authorization,” Mr. Bernhard wrote in an email.

Specifically, Wilton’s Town Charter indicates that a special town meeting may be called through the “power of initiative” by residents so the town may discuss and vote on a number of different issues, but not bonding issues.

Though the charter allows the Board of Selectmen to schedule a special town meeting to consider “the authorization of bonds and all other forms of financing, the terms of which are in excess of one year,” that power is restricted from residents attempting to schedule a town meeting through a power of initiative petition.

Nevertheless, if Sensible Wilton is able to collect the 230 petition signatures required to call a special town meeting through power of initiative, it says the Board of Selectmen will be required to schedule a meeting and an adjourned vote.

“Under the Charter if at least 15% of all registered voters cast ballots in the revote, approximately 1700 voters, then the results of the revote are binding upon the selectmen,” a press release says.

Sensible Wilton did not respond to a request for clarification of this statement.

In general, Registrar of Voters Tina Gardner said Monday, a special town meeting that includes a ballot and a Saturday vote costs the town approximately $3,000.

Though the Miller-Driscoll renovation referendum passed a special town meeting vote last month with a majority, Sensible Wilton has argued the small margin of victory paired with what it says were elections violations by town officials make the results invalid.

“We need a revote because the largest project in Wilton’s history should not be decided by a razor-thin margin of 27 votes. Especially when the State Elections Enforcement Commission is considering evidence town and school officials violated state election laws to get those 27 votes,” Mr. Ruskewich said in a written statement Monday. “We need a revote untainted by documented election violations.”

Responding to such statements, Mr. Bernhard said he disagrees with Mr. Ruskewich’s view of “the democratic process.”

“Mr. Ruskewich does not acknowledge the democratic process set out in the Town Charter that provides that the majority vote prevails. The fact that a vote is a close one is irrelevant,” he said.

If it were relevant than [sic] with any controversial matter, it would be impossible to ever get resolution. In this case the majority of voters participating in the town meeting voted to approve the bonding resolution. It passed.”

If Sensible Wilton is not successful in collecting the 230 signatures it says it needs to call a special town meeting, its president Alex Ruskewich says the organization will give up its challenges to the referendum.