Roundup: Selectmen, Trunk Or Treat …

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Jonathan Steinberg does not want to be 3rd selectman.

T.J. Elgin does.

Now, Candice Savin does too.

The question of who will fill the final seat on the Board of Selectmen arose when Steinberg — the loser for 1st selectman in Tuesday’s election — decided to keep his day job, as Westport’s state representative in Hartford.

By law, the position goes to “the defeated candidate for First Selectman having the highest number of votes.” Elgin — a Libertarian who received just 64 votes in the race — contends that with Steinberg’s withdrawal, Elgin should be next in line. He says that Candice Savin — Steinberg’s running mate — was a candidate for second selectman, not first selectman.

The Democratic Town Committee believes that as the defeated party with the next highest number of votes, they get to fill the spot. Yesterday, they said:

The DTC recognizes the Third Selectman as a valuable member of Westport’s leadership team and would like to address any questions surrounding this potential appointment in the newly elected administration. In accordance with the Town Charter, if Jonathan Steinberg chooses not to accept this role, the DTC recommends a candidate to the newly elected First and Second Selectmen for their consideration.

Candice Savin, who ran for Second Selectman, is interested in being considered to fill the position of Third Selectman should Jonathan Steinberg choose not to accept it. Candice has expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to work with Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore for the benefit of the town. The DTC appreciates the significant contributions that Third Selectmen have made to Westport over the years and looks forward to recommending a new Democratic member to the Board of Selectmen.

If Savin is selected, Westport’s 3 selectmen would all be women, for the first time in history.

Which means we should then call it the Board of Selectwomen.

Candice Savin

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Halloween was last week, but it’s never too late to say thank you.

The United Methodist Church is grateful to all who attended Sunday’s Trunk or Treat event.

Scores of local kids (and their parents) enjoyed spooky displays in 20 car trunks  (and safely picked up lots of candy).

At the same time, a collection for area food banks was very successful. Over 40 shopping bags of groceries were donated by church members. In these times of increasing food insecurity, that’s a great “treat” for many people.

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Fall flowers are as beautiful as spring’s. Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is from Jennie Lane:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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And finally … on this day in 1874, a Thomas Nast cartoon in Harper’s Weekly is considered the first important use of an elephant as a symbol for the Republican Party.

Here to celebrate elephants is Staples High School Class of 1966 graduate/longtime musician/certified “Vermont State Treasure” Jon Gailmor.

PS: Jon is most definitely not a Republican.

 

 

27 responses to “Roundup: Selectmen, Trunk Or Treat …

  1. Let’s hope the soon to be new select person and savin have rational minds. This guy Elgin is a complete conspiracy theorist and clown. PLEASE.

  2. This is an odd communication to 06880 from some unnamed, unauthorized person or source for two reasons: First, the DTC does not at this point have LEGAL authority to make a recommendation (see CGA § 9-222, referenced below). Second, recommendations for who will stand for office come from the entire DTC sitting in quorum, not from one or two persons. A quorum of the assembled DTC to choose a new Third Selectman is a sine qua non. No one who was the source of this article has the authority to USURP those democratic powers of the entire DTC. No such quorum of the DTC has yet occurred relative to this issue.

    1. The membership of the DTC has not yet been gathered in a caucus to recommend anyone for the Third Selectman position now that Steinberg declined the role. There may be a number of Democrats interested in this role. No one at the party was authorized to put forward the name of just one individual. If indeed the DTC would have the power to recommend someone when the losing First Selectman candidate declines the Third Selectman role (which the Charter does not say a party has the power to do), then it would be the entire DTC that would vote to make a recommendation, not just the unnamed source from the DTC for this article. No single officer of the DTC has the unilateral power to decide who to recommend.

    2. Section C4-1 of the Westport Town Charter says nothing about a political party having the power to recommend a Third Selectman candidate when the losing First Selectman candidate fails to accept the position. CGA CHAPTER 91–SELECTMEN also does not say that the losing party has the right to recommend a Third Selectman when that party’s candidate refuses the role.

    However, CT Gen Stat § 9-222 (2019) does address this issue and says this:
    “When a vacancy occurs in the office of first selectman or in the office of selectman it shall be filled within thirty days after the day of its occurrence by the remaining members of the board of selectmen. …… If such a vacancy in the office of first selectman or of selectman is not so filled within thirty days after the day of its occurrence, the town clerk shall, within ten days thereafter, notify the elective town officers enrolled in the same political party as the first selectman or selectman, as the case may be, who vacated the office, or all elective town officers, if such first selectman or selectman who vacated the office was not enrolled with a political party, and it shall be filled by such elective town officers within sixty days after its occurrence. ……..”

    So it seems the DTC does NOT have recommendation power at this point. It is the “elective town officers” who have a say, but ONLY if the elected First and Second Selectman fail to name a Democrat within thirty days of the vacancy.
    Jen and Andrea must choose someone from the ‘other’ party –the Democratic party– because our Charter only allows a maximum of two selectmen from the same party.

  3. Thanks Kris Hamlin, for setting forth the actual statutes. That’s where the answer will lie. Let’s start by looking at Section C4-1 of the Town Charter:

    “The Board of Selectmen shall consist of the First Selectman and 2 other Selectmen, no more than 2 of whom may be members of the same political party. No political party shall nominate more than 1 other candidate for Selectman. Such candidates shall be listed together upon the ballot or machine. No elector shall cast more than 1 combined vote for First Selectman and 1 other Selectman. The candidate for First Selectman having the highest number of votes shall be elected First Selectman, and the candidate for Selectman combined with the elected First Selectman on the ballot or machine shall be elected a Selectman. The defeated candidate for First Selectman having the highest number of votes shall be elected a Selectman. If a person is elected First Selectman who has not been nominated by a political party, the 2 defeated candidates for First Selectman having the highest number of votes shall be elected Selectman. The Selectmen shall be elected quadrennially as provided by the General Statutes. Upon election, each member of the Board of Selectmen may decide whether to be designated as Selectman, Selectwoman or Selectperson.”

    First, the charter is quite clear that the “defeated candidate for First Selectmen” having the highest number of votes shall be elected a Selectmen. The text says nothing about candidates for Selectmen (such as Savin or D’Onofrio), and so we are left with Steinberg and Elgin. If Steinberg turns down the role, or otherwise can’t serve (say because of death, disability, leaving the town, etc.), it would seem by far the best reading of the charter than Elgin should be seated as a Selectmen, regardless of his number of votes.

    In addition, please note that the Town Charter itself mentions NOTHING about political party, other than all 3 Selectmen positions can’t be filled by members of the same party. Since TJ Elgin is not a Republican, nothing in the Town Charter prevents him from being on the Board of Selectmen, as it says nothing about needing to select either a Republican or Democrat in any instance. To infer that is to read something in the Town Charter that simply isn’t there.

    By a plain reading, it truly seems like TJ has to be seated if Steinberg is not available to take the position for any reason.

    However, as Kris Hamlin noted above, we also need to consider whether there is a “vacancy” for a Selectmen position. Section 9-222 of the CGA reads as follows:

    “When a vacancy occurs in the office of first selectman or in the office of selectman it shall be filled within thirty days after the day of its occurrence by the remaining members of the board of selectmen. Said remaining members may appoint one of themselves to fill a vacancy in the office of first selectman, if they so desire, and shall then fill the ensuing vacancy in the office of selectman as herein provided. If such a vacancy in the office of first selectman or of selectman is not so filled within thirty days after the day of its occurrence, the town clerk shall, within ten days thereafter, notify the elective town officers enrolled in the same political party as the first selectman or selectman, as the case may be, who vacated the office, or all elective town officers, if such first selectman or selectman who vacated the office was not enrolled with a political party, and it shall be filled by such elective town officers within sixty days after its occurrence….”

    The statute itself says nothing about the existing Selectmen filling a vacancy from the same political party as the vacating Selectmen. The concept of a political party filling such selectmen position ONLY applies if the then-existing Selectmen fail to fill that position within 30 days following the vacancy. Indeed the only requirement of the then-existing Selectmen, to the extent they are both from the same political party, is that they cannot pick someone from their own party.

    It’s also very hard to argue that the intent of legislature in Section 9-222 was for the vacancy in the office of Selectmen to be filled by someone from the same political party, otherwise the legislature would have specifically required that in the statute, such as they did in Section 9-192 of the CGA regarding vacancies in the Registrar of voters, as follows:

    “…If a vacancy exists in the office of registrar of voters in consequence of a refusal or failure to accept the office or a failure of the registrar to appoint a deputy registrar, the town committee of the same political party as the registrar of voters who so refused, failed to accept or failed to appoint, or other appointing authority specified in local party rules shall fill such vacancy by the appointment of some suitable person, who shall belong to the same political party as the registrar of voters who so refused, failed to accept or failed to appoint…”

    Upon reading the relevant provisions, it seems quite clear that if Jonathan Steinberg is not seated as Third Selectmen, then TJ Elgin should be required to have that seat pursuant to the Town Charter. If, however, Jonathan Steinberg IS seated and then vacates that position, then the remaining Selectmen have 30 days to pick anyone so long as such person is not a Republican.

  4. Candice Savin would certainly be a great and logical choice for the third selectman position. But I do not believe the correct procedure has been followed by the DTC’s leadership yet in making an endorsement. Specifically Westport DTC Bylaws, Article VIII, Section 12 provides that ”Whenever the Town Committee is officially notified that a Democratic Party vacancy exists in an elective Town office, the Town Committee shall, by a majority vote of members present at a meeting called for that purpose, endorse a single candidate to fill that Town office, and cause that endorsement to be submitted to the proper Town official in timely fashion.” As I understand the situation, Jonathan Steinberg’s decision to decline the Third Selectman post to which he (and his party) were entitled has created a vacancy that Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore must fill with a Democrat, as per the Town charter. That Democratic vacancy should be handled according to the DTC rule cited above. As a DTC member, I am not aware of any Town Committee meeting that has been convened for this purpose, and thus I can only conclude that the endorsement described in Dan’s post comes solely from the DTC Chair and/or Executive Committee. Under the Rules, that’s not enough. If I have read this wrong, I welcome a contrary view.

  5. Evan– That DTC rule does indeed apply for all vacancies to which the DTC is entitled to make a recommendation. However, pursuant to our Town Charter and the 2019 law, CT Gen Stat § 9-222 (2019), that appointment power by the DTC does not appear to come in to play for a Selectman position.

    CGA§ 9-222 says the First and Second Selectman must appoint a Democrat within 30 days of the vacancy. If they do not do so within 30 days, then the Town clerk notifies elected officials in the town (who are of the same party (as the Selectman declining to take the seat) and those elected officers shall choose. That appears to mean that registered Democrats on the BOF, BOE, ZBA, RTM, P &Z, etc., will then choose the Third Selectman.

    So with respect to this position–Selectman– the DTC does not appear to have any role in choosing the Third Selectman. Instead, elected Dems in local office choose, but only in the event that the First and Second Selectman fail to do so within 30 days. Certainly, the DTC leadership needs to better acquaint itself with the operable law, and not misrepresent to Dan Woog that the DTC has decided this issue when, as you accurately point out, the DTC plainly has not yet been convened to so decide. Even if it did so, it appears to be irrelevant to filling this particular position.

    The charter and CGA§ 9-222, read together, indicate that Mr. Elgin is incorrect that he gets the spot, since he did not run from any particular party and did not come in second for the spot; Steinberg did.

    I suggest that the Town get the law right on this issue, so we do not have a Scully v. Westport lawsuit, like we did in 1957. Irresponsible communiques from unauthorized persons like that sourced for this article certainly won’t help avoid such potential lawsuits and problems.

  6. Bill Strittmatter

    Unless it is already irreversible, maybe Steinberg should accept the position, get sworn in then resign a few weeks later and Westport won’t have to deal with the “Elgin is next in line” issue which seems to be the plain reading of the interaction of the various statutes. Given how few votes he received, presumably there aren’t many in Westport that think that would be a good outcome.

    Steinberg’s gaffe is somewhat inexplicable. You’d have thought an experienced legislator/politician would have known the rules or thought to check before acting. I doubt confusion is what he intended.

  7. George Franciscovich

    With all due respect to the attorneys who have already offered their opinions on this matter, I would suggest that they look deeper into the Town Charter itself for the answer to this question rather than jumping to the Connecticut General Statutes:

    C38-3. – Vacancies.
    Except as otherwise provided, any vacancy in any elected or appointed Town office, except elected boards, shall be filled by appointment by the First Selectman for the unexpired portion of the term. If the office of First Selectman becomes vacant, the Board of Selectmen shall forthwith convene a special election to fill the vacancy. Until a successor has been elected and qualified, the remaining Selectmen and the Finance Director, acting as a board, shall exercise the powers and duties of the First Selectman and of the Board of Selectmen. Any other vacancy in any elected board shall be filled by appointment by the remaining members thereof for the unexpired portion of the term. If such elected board or Commission fails to fill the vacancy within 45 days, the vacancy may be filled by the First Selectman. When the person vacating an office, board or commission, other than the office of First Selectman, was elected or appointed as a member of a political party, such vacancy shall be filled from the membership of the same political party.

    I would point out that the Charter does not require either the recommendation nor the assent of the DTC, just that the appointee be a member of the party.
    Of course I may be biased since I was a member of the Last Charter Revision Commission

  8. If there’s one snake at a party in Westport, it’s a good bet there are more. No to Slavin.

  9. George– no offense taken, at least by me! That is indeed consistent with what I said above –that it is the First Selectman who appoints a member from the other party and that there appears to be no role for the DTC here in recommending who it is that will fill the Third Selectman vacancy.

    The principle point of the other attorney, Evan, who commented above, appears to be that when the DTC does make recommendations for vacancies, pursuant to DTC Bylaws, it does so as a whole committee sitting in quorum, and the Chair of the DTC does not have the power to announce a DTC recommendation, unilaterally. The DTC acts democratically, not autocratically. He so opined in his role as a DTC member in response to the unilateralism of the DTC Chair in pushing forward an incorrect narrative. He is quite correct on that point about DTC Bylaws.

    It is the DTC Chair’s statement provided to Woog (and cited above) that is plainly wrong. She said that “In accordance with the Town Charter, if Jonathan Steinberg chooses not to accept this role, the DTC recommends a candidate to the newly elected First and Second Selectmen for their consideration.” The Town Charter does not say the DTC is entitled to make a recommendation.

  10. “By law, the position goes to “the defeated candidate for First Selectman having the highest number of votes.”

    That person is Elgin. Very interesting how in ‘liberal’ Westport when something goes again their grain they do whatever they can to find a way out, including cheating (having Steinberg take the role and then resign). People saying Elgin is a conspiracy theorist or mocking his vote total need to shut up.

    Steinberg is a sore loser, and his attitude makes me for one very relieved he did not win. I have no idea who Elgin is, but to me it looks like he is legitimately the one who should become 3rd Selectman.

  11. btw… Savin screaming hysterically about being 3rd Selectman and begging the incoming First Selectman to give her the job is pathetic. There are bylaws to be followed. Next time don’t hitch your wagon to a loser like Steinberg and earn your way into office.

  12. TJ Elgin Sent out a press release on Oct, 10th stating Mr. Steinberg would drop out if he did not win and requested Mr. Steinberg address this on the debate stage. Please read their press release here: https://votewestport.com/historical-press-releases

    I find it funny that people called this man a conspiracy theorist or mock the vote tally when he has been speaking truth the entire election. I would not be surprised if he had more votes than reported either.

    His running mate ran to shine light on town corruption, but yet none of the other candidates, Selectman Tooker or Representative Steinberg, even discussed the missing funds at the health department.

    This town needs Elgin but does not deserve him.

  13. Is this the Babylon Bee? Can this be true? After a super negative slash and burn campaign Savin and Steinberg ran against Tooker/Moore, she really has the gall to now publicly appeal for Elgin’s Third Selectman job? It’s just unbelievable! Savin has a history of being extremely rude to parents at BoE meetings rolling her eyes and such. She also would cut off speaking BoE members left and right . She has shown she does not have the ability to carry herself in positions of power without denigrating the speakers in forums she controls. She has also screamed at and cut off parents in TEAM meetings. Savin needs to stop this silliness and exit because she is simply unfit for the job under any set of facts. Tooker would have to have her head examined if she even considered Savin.

  14. And then there’s this to be considered, also from the Elections section of the Connecticut General Statutes (the order of precedence of charter vs statutes is quite complex)

    9-167d … At such time as the minority representation provisions of this section become applicable to any board, commission, committee or body, any vacancy thereafter occurring which is to be filled by appointment shall be filled by the appointment of a member of the same political party as that of the vacating member.

    • Wendy– Is this comment directed to those writing who advocate for Elgin taking the position? Because if it is, then the comment makes sense.

      Both Evan and I, however, have been clear above in stating that under these circumstances, the person appointed as Third Selectman to fill a vacancy must be a Democrat. Section 9-167d is not in any way inconsistent with what we have said.

      If however, you read 9-167d to provide support to Ellen’s erroneous assertion (above) that under the Charter (or any law) the DTC gets to nominate and recommend the Democratic Third Selectman for the First Selectman’s spot, then I respectfully disagree with you. 9-167d does not say that.

      There is no legal basis under the Charter or the state law to support Ellen’s misstatement that the DTC has the legal right to make a recommendation. (Certainly, however, if the First Selectman wants to seek recommendations from a variety of persons/groups including the DTC, she can request it. However, she is not bound by any recommendations she seeks, and there is no legal basis to claim that there is a presumption in favor of allowing the DTC to make a recommendation.)

      Ellen’s statement (ie: “In accordance with the Town Charter, if Jonathan Steinberg chooses not to accept this role, the DTC recommends a candidate to the newly elected First and Second Selectmen for their consideration”) is simply wrong. The Charter does NOT state that the opposing party has the legal right to make a Third Selectman recommendation. It says nothing about any political party making a recommendation when a vacancy occurs in a selectman position.

      As to your reference about “order of precedence of charter vs statutes”, I think what you intend to refer to is a concept called ‘preemption,’ wherein state law preempts municipal laws on subjects/legal issues on which the state has chosen to legislate. By way of example, that would mean if the state were to provide certain minimum voting rights, for instance, it would serve to preempt and preclude the municipal government from making inconsistent laws that undermine those minimum voting rights guaranteed by the state.

      However, in this instance, I do not see how the concept of state preemption comes into play on the issue of whether the Westport DTC has the power either under state or municipal law to make a recommendation as to the Third Selectman spot, because neither the Westport Charter nor the state law provides the Westport DTC with any such legal right to nominate or recommend a Third Selectman upon a vacancy.

      In any event, Ellen should refrain from acting unilaterally as if on behalf of the DTC by dangling out one sole name (as she has above and in the Westport journal), especially when another Democrat may have indicated his interest. The DTC makes recommendations about candidates as a quorumed whole, democratically, not autocratically. As to Ellen’s statement below (ie: “the DTC will convene a meeting and will make a recommendation to the First and Second Selectmen”), if the First Selectman-elect has asked the DTC to make a recommendation or has indicated she would give it any weight, then that would be the proper way to proceed. If not, then it’s a fool’s errand.

      It’s important that the Town gets this right so that there are no legal challenges. We do not want to gum things up by misinforming the community in unthoughtful press releases. It’s best not to ‘get over her skis’ by unilaterally issuing press releases about rules, laws and issues before first understanding the rules about which she purports to speak.

      Westport has had Charter revisions and updates in past decades. Perhaps this situation in which we find ourselves may prompt revisiting some of the language of the Charter. Appointing a new Charter Revision Commission to consider changes may make sense with respect to a variety of topics.

  15. Ellen Lautenberg

    As the Chair of the Westport DTC who issued the statement that was included in this article, I would just like to assure everyone that the DTC intends to follow all provisions of the town Charter as well as the by-laws of the DTC. I have communicated with town attorneys to make sure we understand the correct process. At whatever point the seat is considered vacant (which is not yet the case), the DTC will convene a meeting and will make a recommendation to the First and Second Selectmen. It will then be their decision whether to accept that recommendation. It seems unecessary to be name-calling and personal here. None of that is relevant to the process. It would be better if rather than speculating, people watched the process as it plays out. We are not there yet. The DTC has no interest in doing an end-around the process, nor has a recommendation been put forward. My statement is consistent with all of this.

  16. It is important to note our Town attorney, Eileen Flug, is a democrat who was Jonathan Steinberg’s campaign manager in the past. Whether or not Town Attorney Ms. Flug passing on a question that directly impacts a Steinberg candidacy may be a technical conflict of interest as a purely legal matter. Regardless, her involvement on this political legal matter on behalf of the town which clearly would promote a very strong appearance of impropriety. This should be avoided for many reasons. Accordingly, the town needs to retain a non-partisan attorney or firm who can review the matter which has the potential of being legally contested.

  17. Dick Lowenstein

    For the record, T. J. Elgin is a registered Republican.

  18. Actually, I just presented it as a piece of information to be considered as part of the mix. But I do agree that it applies to Mr. Elgin’s situation.

  19. I think the position should be offered to John Kluchnick!

  20. Thank you, my friend, for including “Jumbo the Elephant”. Glad you got my check in the mail! A couple of clarifying points: 1) The song was composed by Leon Rosselson; 2) though I am, indeed, not a Republican, I am also no Democrat. I consider myself a rampant Independent, not married to either major party, but someone who always supports the person I deem the most qualified. And I do adore elephants, in a totally Pachydermic sense, not in a political one!

  21. Jonathan Steinberg should accept the position of Third Selectman and then, after whatever period he thinks best, resign, thus allowing the simple process of filling a vacancy to select a successor Third Selectman to proceed.. That is pretty much what John Izzo did many years ago. It worked well and smoothly.
    The Third Selectman or woman can be an important role. It provides a vehicle for public statements, it can provide a deciding vote when the First and Second Selectwomen have differing judgments and, most importantly, the Third Selectman or woman can often work well with the First Selectman to accomplish good things for our Town. Candice Savin is a doer and a superb contributor to Westport. If Candice would like the position, she should be appointed as Jonathan’s successor. The thought or possibility of T.J. Elgin becoming Westport’s Third Selectman is fraught with negatives and would be a disservice to the democratic process.
    Don Bergmann

  22. Donald what you are suggesting Steinberg to do after the lengthy interviews he gave indicating his complete disinterest and intent to not fill the position would be dishonest at best. I see you wrote this last night but this morning he also wrote a letter to the editor in the Westport Journal where he clearly confirmed again prior statements made in these interviews that he is not taking the job and even wishes the future Third Selectman luck in the position. He backtracked past comments where he minimized the position and explained in detail why he is not willing to take on the Third Selectman role while also maintaining his job in Hartford. To be fair it would probably be challenging if not impossible for Steinberg to serve both positions well so I think it was the right thing for him to clearly disqualify himself in no uncertain terms for the Third Selectman role so that this role can be filled most expeditiously.

  23. Looking at the Third Selectman’s “race” from the outside, it seems like a comic movie. Maybe someone ought to write a script. I bet it would be a hit, sort of like “Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!” Too bad Paul Newman isn’t here to play the lead.

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