This is Peter Gold’s report on the January Representative Town Meeting. He is an RTM member writing for himself, and not in an official capacity.
No votes were taken at January’s RTM meeting, which saw the announcement of a new special RTM committee, the first reading of an ordinance to establish a civilian police review board, and the announcement of a new town clerk to replace the retiring Patty Strauss.
While RTM rules already require RTM members to conduct themselves in a manner above reproach, Velma Heller, RTM moderator, noted that the start of a new year is a timely occasion to take a step back and review RTM practices. She appointed a special committee of 7 RTM members to see if there is room for improvement, and to clarify expectations regarding conduct at public meetings and in written communications.
The committee is charged with developing a Code of Conduct that articulates desired behaviors that embody the RTM’s values and principles as an organization. The Code of Conduct will cover topics such as Freedom of Information Act issues, the general use of email and social media, and commonly accepted standards of decorum for participation in public discourse, whether in person or on line.
A proposed ordinance was introduced to establish an elected civilian police review board. It would receive, investigate and make recommendations on complains regarding the police. The ultimate decision on any complaint will remain with the chief of police.
Click here for the full text of the proposed ordinance (immediately following the list of upcoming RTM meetings).
The proposed ordinance will be reviewed at upcoming public meetings of the RTM Public Protection and Ordinance Committees. It will be debated and voted on at a subsequent RTM meeting, most likely in February or March.
If the proposed ordinance is adopted, the elected civilian police review board would replace the civilian review panel recently appointed by First Selectman Marpe. That panel reviews and provides feedback on documented complaints regarding the police that are investigated by the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. Unlike the proposed ordinance’s review board, it can not investigate complaints. Also unlike the proposed ordinance’s review board, Marpe’s panel also reviews complaints regarding the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services.
Marpe also announced that Jeff Dunkerton, the assistant town clerk in Danbury, will replace Patty Strauss who recently retired as Westport’s town clerk.