TEAM Westport Membership Challenged

An attorney representing 2 Westporters has charged TEAM Westport with violating the town charter, and state statute.

In an email to 1st Selectman Jen Tooker, Vincent Marino — representing Zack Alcyone and Camilo Riano — says that since its formation in 2005, the town’s multicultural organization has “failed to satisfy the minority representation requirement and has included ineligible members. As a result, the Committee has conducted business in violation of the law, and in recent years, in absence of a quorum.”

Marino says that TEAM Westport includes 14 members, and that by charter and state statute, no more than 9 can be from one political party. He lists 11 Democrats, one unaffiliated, and one resident each of Weston and Redding, along with a 15th ex officio member. (Click here for TEAM Westport committee members, as listed on the town website.)

He charges also that “only electors of the Town may be appointed to serve on elected or appointed boards and commissions of the Town.” Two other members, he says, no longer live in Westport.

Marino says that at least 5 members — including chair Harold Bailey Jr. — have served longer than the charter allows.

He demands that 9 members be advised that they are no longer eligible to serve; that “all prior action of the Committee is to be considered void,” and that the 5 remaining members cannot conduct business in the absence of a quorum.

If Marino’s concerns are not addressed by Friday, he says his clients are “prepared to seek a writ of mandamus” (judicial remedy).

Members of TEAM Westport — the acronym stands for Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism — “live and work in Westport or Weston,” its website says. Members are appointed by the first selectman.

The committee was created in 2003, by Democratic 1st Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell. “Westport’s traditional ties with neighboring Weston quickly added volunteers from Weston with the sponsorship of Weston First Selectman Woody Bliss,” the website notes.

In 2005, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) voted to name TEAM Westport an official municipal committee. Democrat Gordon Joseloff and Republicans Jim Marpe and Jen Tooker have continued their support of the group.

Tooker’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

(Full disclosure: I was a member of TEAM Westport at its inception in 2003. I resigned when I began the “06880” blog.)

58 responses to “TEAM Westport Membership Challenged

    • India Van Voorhees

      Of interest is that the other plaintiff has published a book in which he refers to President Trump’s first three years *in power*, rather than *in office*. That says a lot.

      • Elaine Marino

        How is referring to a tenure as president as “in power” problematic, in your view? How does it “say a lot”?

  1. Good gracious this seems productive. To simplify things, @JenTooker, I am a registered Independent and would gladly join TEAM Westport, if this is genuinely a hurdle. Dan Woog has my contact info. My board work is extensive and I have experience working at the board level on issues surrounding equity.

  2. Polly Temple.

    This is simply crazy. I know Harold and he is a good man. This is just unbelievable to me. I thought westport was better than this. I guess I was wrong. Very disappointed!

  3. I am very disappointed.

    There was a Westporter testifying as a witness in Maricopa County regarding the fraudulent vote counting? He was asked if he was paid to create a website to collect people’s experiences with voting in Arizona and, under oath, he said that he COULDN’T REMEMBER? And then, he turned out to be business partner of the lawyer arguing the president’s case?

    All of this juicy information about where Westport Meets The World AND IT HASN’T BEEN PREVIOUSLY REPORTED ON 06880?!?! This is a horrendous oversight!

  4. Howard Greene

    someone should check if the Riano foundation is funneling money illegally

  5. Crazy is exactly what I was thinking. If I was writing a novel on the destruction of the fabric of the U.S,I might consider sending a army of instigators to communities all over the country to sew trouble. I remember a speaker at the Saugatuck Congrehational Church in the early 60’s, a member of the John Birch Societ. I was so horrified with the things he was saying that I challenged him. He referred to me for the rest of the meeting as “the communist in the front row”. This was my home town and people I knew were giving me the fish eye! This is what people like this crew can accomplish..Sorry, it really upsets me.

  6. This is “gotcha” bulls***t. Who are the complainants?

    Yes, come into compliance with the charter, and get on with the efforts towards equity.

  7. You realize that it’s TEAM that’s in violation of the law, right? Why are you going after the people who are trying to bring them into compliance? Oh right, because you know you have no legal basis so choose to go the classy personal attack route.

    • So they’re bringing litigation out of genuine ‘concern’ and good will towards the town and TEAM Lexi?

      “Deeds done from bad motives remain everlastingly tainted”
      Thich Nhat Hanh

      • Weren’t there a couple of good football games yesterday? Who are you all rooting for in the Super Bowl?

    • “no legal basis” an interesting choice of words to defend someone who was quietly supporting trump’s post-election efforts in arizona

      • I don’t know Zack personally, but I also don’t care? One thing has nothing to do with another. Also, Trump won.

        • Robert M Gerrity

          A lot of things have a lot to do with other things. It is called interconnectedness, like Proud Boy stacks attacking the Capitol to Roger Stone at the Willard Hotel to Mark Meadows at the White House to Trump sitting and sitting and sitting and doing nothing.

          Hey, Sam Tilden really did win the 1876 election and in the electoral college votes, too. Southern members of his party stabbed him in the back for their own local, racist goals. Did Sam stage a coup attempt? No. He groused about it and went back to New York politics.

          That’s NOT what your “winning guy” did. I’m an historian. I know a coup when I see one. That was a coup attempt. And coup attempts are ILLEGAL. He is a criminal and it will be proven in an American court of law. (Yeah, I’m taking the over.) My fellow historians will just dig the hole deeper and deeper for all future generations to go Wow, it really did almost happen here.

          But, thanks for putting your name on the opinion.

    • Christine Meiers Schatz

      Lexi Jones, they are not accomplishing anything aside from aggravation. Even if there were acts in violation of the charter, there are probably countless unaffiliated voters and republicans in town who would volunteer to go on the committee and ratify the past votes. I am one of them, and I’d resign my RTM seat if need be to do it. Let’s not forget that we live in one of the most segregated states in the country. This type of environment can make implicit racial bias harder to acknowledge and overcome. I support the BOE’s equity study. I can’t wait to hear our bright young adults write on the topic provided by TEAM Westport. I’ll do everything I can to make sure they have that opportunity. I hope everyone reading this will do the same.

  8. Lauren MacNeill

    Now you know whey their website is anonymous, except that when you engage in litigation its no longer anonymous

    • Oh good Lauren is here to set the record straight. You attack people for anonymity and then attack people for using their real names. But still wonder why others would choose to be anonymous as all of these comments are character assassinations on the two brave souls who had the chutzpah to put their names out there.

  9. Dan, you may want to refer back to comments left on previous posts regarding TEAM via Anne Alcyone. Possible relation? Clearly there’s an axe to grind if so.

    • Deb-YOU guys are the one with a proverbial ax to grind-going after members of our community now? Ax to grind about Trump much?!

  10. I worked at Westport Library from 2000 to 2013 and had the honor to work with Harold Bailey and Team Westport when they presented programs on the work they were involved in to bring attention to the importance of diversity in their community. While I have no interest in addressing the folks who seem to be stirring a pot of ugliness, I hope they can find a way to respect all who came before them and worked so hard to encourage diversity in a town where there was little.

  11. Jean Hofheimer Bennett

    I really enjoy reading your blog every day, but today’s post has me wanting to scream: “REALLY?!” Who are these people?
    But then I remember what we are living through as a nation, so, of course, the craziness has come here….
    I’m reading Jamie Raskin’s wonderful book, “Unthinkable,” and that is exactly how I feel about the folks that are challenging one of the best parts of Westport, TEAM Westport.
    Jeanie Bennett

  12. Michael Mossman

    Look, no one is fooled by who these people are and what they are about. Having failed to win the 2020 election, overturn it by spurious claims of election fraud or overturn the election by insurrection they are attempting to make suburban parents VERY afraid of the big bad racial equity discussion. They are after your children! Yes there’s trouble right here in Westport (with a capital T and that starts TEAM!) Ooooooh!

    But Westporters are not ignorant, gullible or subject to bullying. Nor are our Westport Republican and Democratic elected officials, who, unlike the MAGA cult, have a sober and bipartisan tradition we cherish. If there are compliance issues here, by all means, let’s fulfill them. But make no mistake, the fear mongers of WP06880 are in this to silence an honest discussion of our history of systemic racial inequity and attempt to create a political wedge issue. The real way to reunite our country and to defeat the hate we saw at the Unite the Right Rally and on January 6, 2021 is by electing and supporting town officials who represent the professional and collaborative values we see by and large here in Westport. Go TEAM!

  13. Arline Gertzoff

    Lexi Jones Please enlighten me as to what Trump won yes he won in 2016 but there is no record of his winning anything since.

  14. Robert M Gerrity

    IF there’s an issue with the legal status of members of a true Town committee, THEN 1st – CLEAN IT UP, 2nd – Institute procedures so it doesn’t happen again. These should be steps that the Town’s legal counsel should be on top of.

    But – this law suit is, as described above, an ATTACK. I is NOT being done in Good Faith. It is a NEGATIVE action.

    But thanks for putting your names on a public document.

    Now do the Positive action – run for town office. Take your vision of how things ought to be to the votes.

    You still do not dare.

  15. Adam Schwartz

    What does a lawyer get when you give him Viagra? Taller.

  16. Counting down to book banning and book burning.

    • Tom we already have a little book burning here in Westport schools-they removed To Kill a Mockingbird from the curriculum SOLELY because it is “taught from a white lens.” The schools are replacing Pulitzer Prize winning books literally to to skin color!

  17. Carl Addison Swanson, Esq.

    Lord, as a former federal attorney, the worst thing you can do is get an attorney involved. They will muck it up for years. But same old Westport, argue, fight, litigate. Since 1952.

  18. Elaine Marino

    I am dismayed to read the comments with respect to the TEAM Westport lawsuit. The Town must investigate/confirm the allegations, take corrective action and implement controls so that violations such as those alleged don’t occur again. It doesn’t matter how nice the TEAM Westport members may be or how magnanimous their deeds; if violations have been committed, the Town must address them.

    One issue that has been brought to my attention by Anne Alcyone (by posting on Dan’s blog) is that the Town included the following in its DEI “Value Statement,” which was adopted on October 13, 2021:

    “… and that as a Board, to denounce efforts to divide and instill fear in our community based on characteristics including but not limited to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, abilities and LGBTQIA+.”

    I agree wholeheartedly that race should not be a factor considered by the government / municipal agencies when determining whom the government serves and to what extent (omitting affirmative action policies for the moment). Accordingly, my first reaction Anne Alcyone’s claim made on this blog was “this can’t be true” (see below)”:

    “Recent examples of antiracism in action include policies enacted by hospital systems in various states to prioritize non-white patients in the delivery of life-saving COVID treatments.”

    Ms. Alcyone did not provide proof to support this claim, but I found some:

    “Oral antiviral treatment is authorized for patients who meet all the following criteria:

    • Age 12 years and older for Paxlovid, or 18 years and older for Molnupiravir

    • Weigh at least 40 kg (88 pounds)

    • Test positive for SARS-CoV-2 on a nucleic acid amplification test or antigen test; results from an FDA-authorized home-test kit should be validated through video or photo but, if not possible, patient attestation is adequate

    • Have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms

    o Patient cannot be hospitalized or receiving oxygen therapy due to COVID-19

    • Are able to start treatment within 5 days of symptom onset

    • Have a medical condition or other factors that increase their risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

    o Consider race and ethnicity when assessing an individual’s risk. Impacts of longstanding systemic health and social inequities put Black, Indigenous, and People of Color at increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes and death.”

    In New York, a white person can be denied life-saving medical care because of skin color. I am outraged by this. Is anyone else? How did this come to pass?

    — Elaine Marino

    • We know Elaine, you said the same thing 1/29 on Dans other TEAM posting. Are you by chance related to Vincent Marino the lawyer behind this? Are you a Westport resident? Just curious as the energy behind this whole endeavor is pretty vapid and hardly the kind that comes from friendly folks looking to instill goodwill in the town. Just sayin’.

      • I have no relation to Vincent Marino, and have been a resident of Westport since 1998.

      • You need to stop-you sound like you are gonna get a pitchfork out soon-you are unhinged. Are you gonna look my last name up, too? Get a grip.

        • Just simple questions that she answered Bea. Also the reference to the comment about Anne Alcyone was because clearly there’s a connection to the man who has initiated this whole thing and yes, it’s obvious to everyone that this approach is one filled with animocity and malice. I’ve actually got a very firm grip, but thanks for the suggestion.

          As they say, if you can’t take the heat….

          • Deb-The issue is not who can take the heat. How childish.

            When one loses attacking the content, attack the person. You clearly are losing at arguing the content on the merits.

    • India Van Voorhees

      These delineated hospital priorities are what is known as triage.
      Triage is what a hospital does to determine the order of treating patients, from most in need to least in need. Several criteria must be met, and risk factors are then taken into account. Being a person of color can impact those risk factors as statistics have shown that they are twice as likely to die of Covid than a White person.

      This should not be misunderstood as meaning White people can be denied medical care because of their skin color. It means if there’s a choice between someone who could die and someone who is in no danger of dying, the person who could die will be treated first. Not being first doesn’t mean never getting treatment.

      Ironically, for centuries Black Americans and other people of color have been denied all manner of things that White people take for granted. And they’ve been denied these things at the hands of the White people who make the laws that deny them. Which, by the way, is what is meant by systemic racism.

      • “Consider race and ethnicity when assessing an individual’s risk. Impacts of longstanding systemic health and social inequities put Black, Indigenous, and People of Color at increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes and death.”

        Thus, in order to remedy the history of systemic racism and social inequities that have negatively impacted non-white citizens of this country, we deny denial public services (in this case, medical treatment) to white persons based on their skin color. I don’t believe that “two wrongs make a right,” but you are entitled to your opinion.

        • Good heavens, Ms. Marino — triage decisions are not punishments!
          Maybe I needed to be clearer in my explanation – I apologize.
          Here’s the simple bottom line: White people are not being denied treatment.

          The sentence you and others have quoted is very specific in its language. CONSIDER race and ethnicity.
          The definition of *consider* is “think carefully about.” So, while hospital staff are *considering* a person’s symptoms, weight and medical history (diabetes? autoimmune disease? COPD?) they are also *considering* a person’s ethnicity – because people of color ARE MORE THAN TWICE AS LIKELY TO DIE as White people.

          The sentence does not say “Do not treat White people.”

          Let’s say a White woman and a Black woman go to the ER with Covid symptoms. There is only 1 treatment left. The White woman is 70 years old, weighs 185 lbs, has diabetes and COPD. The Black woman is 45 years old, weighs 120 lbs, has no other health issues. The treatment is going to go to the White woman.
          Now, if the White woman and the Black woman have all the same risk factors, the Black woman will have one added risk factor – her ethnicity. That doesn’t automatically mean she’ll get the one remaining treatment, it simply means her ethnicity will be under consideration when making the final decision.

          I must remark again on the indelicacy of a White person being upset about being denied something based on the color of her skin.

          • Diane Johnson

            Very well stated, India Van Voorhees.

          • Clark Thiemann

            Very well done. And also worth noting that with COVID, as with many other medical issues, unconscious biases often creep in. The better connected hospital in the wealthier town gets the larger supply of the life-saving medication all else equal. Triage rules like this take a small step towards evening the playing field.

  19. I’m going with the Bengals in the Super Bowl. That’s my TEAM.

  20. I’ve seen messed up boards and commissions in Wesport before (the Levitt Committee with dead people on it comes to mind) but this really takes the cake. As an aside, the Selectman’s Office is supposed to vet appointees and track their terms. Someone has some explaining to do.

  21. Michael Mossman

    Elaine Marino’s comment is a perfect example of the zero sum fear mongering these ham-handed political operatives try to use to scare suburbanites back to the MAGA delusion. Because race and ethnicity is “considered” (no mandate to decide one way or another) that equals denying a deserving white person a treatment. See…apparently the blacks are out to kill the white people and it’s Karl Marx who is leading them!

    Considering a person’s ethnic or racial background is precisely that. If a group is underrepresented among patients then welcoming a more diverse pool of treatment recipients is a proactive way to let that community know it is welcome and can trust the healthcare system. There is nothing in the language Ms Marino presents as a “smoking gun” that talks about denying anyone treatment. Her unfounded conclusion is simply a politically motivated divisive scare tactic which is probably all this group is about.

    Their sad attempt to foment “outrage” at the office of Selectman is a thinly veiled attempt to threaten our elected leadership to toe their hyper-partisan line.

    But nobody is afraid of this bunch. Let’s prove it at the ballot box. Keep the MAGA crowd under the rock where they belong. Hate has no home in Westport or America.

    • Michael, I so wish your take on these yahoos like Marino and the others going after TEAM were accurate.
      Their “sad attempt” is working, nation wide, to elect school boards, secretaries of state and governors who have already changed America from the proud leader in human rights to the frightening specter of a nation in tatters, headed toward autocraacy in 2024.
      The shocker, of course, is that we have so many such traitors in Westport.

  22. Stephen Axthelm

    I’m a friend and fan of the blog 06880. If I’m not mistaken you’ve set a time limit on this, er, debate on your platform. Please stick with it or you are noble to a fault. This has escalated to gaslighting at a high level and false equivalencies (what about her emails!). Gaslight blooms with oxygen. Let them make there own.

    • Thanks. This discussion has not yet run its course. New voices are being heard. It’s a different issue than the essay contest (though of course connected). I’ll keep my eye on it, though — thanks, as always!

  23. Lexi Jones, go sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here. Train wreck donnie l-o-s-t.

  24. My pop always liked to say “always consider the source.”

    I am in no position to judge if all of the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed regarding the members of TEAM Westport, but this is obviously nothing more or less than a bunch of racists doing what they can to stir up trouble because of their fragility. (And a nutter who still thinks Trump won.)

    I suppose, I can also quote my mom who would talk about dog logic. “Don’t look at the finger, look where it’s pointing.” These people don’t care about TEAM Westport board membership in the slightest, they are afraid of confronting historical woes – recent and not so recent. They want to silence those who promote knowledge of a diversity of experience.

    They will claim that others oppose a diversity of views, but that is simply a false equivalency. Discriminating based on race, sex, or national origin is wrong. Being able to recognize abhorrent ideas is just good common sense.

    If there is one lesson to be learned here, it is that it is important for good people to participate as local volunteers and run for local office.

    Why did MAUS get (in a unanimous vote!) banned from a Tennessee school system? Because good people stayed out of local governance and left a void for the extremists.

    And make no mistake, racists and those who deny the results of elections are extremists who do not care in the slightest about our nation’s ideals.

    • John D McCarthy

      Well said Chris. The next step for these extremists will be to try to ban books in Westport schools or the library. This attack on TEAM Westport is just the warm-up act. Will be a good test for the current Republican town administration and all those who claimed they would not be held hostage by the GOP’s extremist wing.

    • This story is fake news: the book was swapped out from the 8th grade curriculum, not “banned.” The board voted to find a better book for the Holocaust and said they’d even use Maus again if they don’t find a good replacement.

      • Bea, you should think for yourself rather than cut and pasting from Christopher Rufo, who is an anti-CRT activist. The bottom line is that the book has been banned (and not yet replaced – though that is largely beside the point).

        Can you, in your own words, say what you find offensive about MAUS?

        What is the appeal of racism and anti-semitism to you? I can’t fathom it.

  25. Richard Johnson

    Every town has its fair share of loons, losers, and people so bored, desperate for attention, or annoying that they have nothing better to do than threaten lawsuits. My suggestion is not to reward such folks with more attention than is merited (none), and to remember that they’re clearly unhappy, in pain, and/or mentally ill, and send your T&Ps.

    That said, I do think that *reporting on* this kind of dispute merits googling the complainants, at minimum. Doing so reveals that one was involved in the specious anti-democratic and now-known-false attempts to undermine the results of the presidential election. The complete lack of credibility of such a person is clearly relevant to the weight these complaints are given and how they’re reported on. “Person with history of making frivolous legal claims makes a legal claim” is the missing context here.

    • You make a really good point, Richard. But I do think that giving attention to these people creates a false equivalence between those who support a culture of tolerance and democracy and those who do not.

      As with the many lies of the right in the Trump years, if they get repeated enough (President Obama’s citizenship, for example) after a while, the gullible and scared think there is something to the false claims and then the media creates that false equivalence while portraying two sides.

  26. Jill Greenberg

    I have been following this “debate” over the past hours, and wish all concerned and interested folks, participants, and readers of 06880, would take a step back. Hit pause. We need to ask ourselves who we are as individuals and as a community and if the quality of this “debate” is what we would expect of our kids if they were arguing on the playing field, or if this entire chain of back and forth would be acceptable in a classroom.

    Without a doubt most of us would say no, this is not a healthy process, it is not going to improve anything, and it is likely to harm something or someone.

    If I have read this complaint correctly, our town and TEAM have failed to follow their own rules of basic governance. We don’t know why. And we don’t know if that is, indeed the fact of it.

    Some of us, me included, are dismayed or even made angry by the fact that a law suit has been triggered by the above revelation, rather than a productive conversation among town members. For example, rather than taking this to a lawyer the complainants could have attended an RTM meeting, or, even, just written to the current town leaders, with a request for a meeting. The act of going right to what feels like a hostile and aggressive act makes us all so emotional.

    If there is more to the story it would be worth learning how and why the legal route was chosen. We all need to be brave enough to learn a truth of fact, to look at the information dispassionately, and take actions to rectify a problem, even if we feel shame or are disturbed by the news. Good people of all stripes make mistakes. That does not make them bad people, nor does their goodness make the mistake not a mistake.

    But with the news in front of us why the name calling, and the attacks? How does getting defensive solve the problems (what ever they are)? We are individuals with varying opinions and values, but surely we can agree that there is no value to attacking our neighbors and fellow citizens. And surely we all want a free, open, and fair government.

    So, though so many of us are on edge, feeling as though democracy is crumbling, why not work together to make democracy work here in our town? I am deeply disappointed in many of the contributors of this “debate” who resort to labeling, name calling, innuendo, and attack because I know you and I know you are all so much better than the words and process posted here.

    I look forward to learning more about the facts, hearing from the selectfolk’s office, and hearing from the current TEAM board, who has brought so many important conversations into the forefront over the past years.
    I also look forward to everyone coming together to do the hard work of making democracy work through collaboration, compromise, and compassionate concern for our community and ALL its diverse members

    • I would encourage you read the other TEAM Westport related posts (and comments) of the last week to get a better understanding of what this is about.

  27. Jill Greenberg for President!!