RTM Ordinance Writer Says: TEAM Westport Always “Advisory Only”

In the wake of threat of legal action against TEAM Westport, one of the original sponsors of the town’s multicultural commission says: Not so fast.

As a member of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) in August 2005, Ann Sheffer says she and her husband, Bill Scheffler — a fellow member — wrote the ordinance establishing the organization.

They authored 2 others during their tenure too — for the Arts Advisory Committee, and the International Hospitality Committee.

All were approved by the RTM. What all 3 share, Sheffer says, is that they have “absolutely no authority or even membership requirements.” All are “completely advisory.'”

The language adopted by the RTM reads:

The Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism (TEAM) Westport Committee is hereby established, to be appointed by the First Selectman, in order to advise the appropriate Town officials as to specific actions that may be taken to achieve and celebrate a more welcoming, multicultural Westport/Weston community. This Committee’s recommendations shall not be binding but shall be of an advisory nature only.

TEAM Westport was accepted by the RTM on August 2, 2005, and became effective 10 days later. It had been established as an ad hoc group by First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell in 2003. Her successors — Gordon Joseloff, Jim Marpe and now Jen Tooker — have supported the committee.

The Arts Advisory Committee was established in 1997. The RTM adopted this language:

The First Selectman is hereby authorized to establish an Arts Advisory Committee in order to advise the appropriate Town officials as to the preservation and promotion of the artistic heritage of the Town. This Committee’s recommendation shall not be binding but shall be of an advisory nature only.

The International Hospital Committee language says:

An International Hospitality Committee is hereby established, to be appointed by the First Selectman, in order to advise the appropriate Town officials as to activities in the Town related to the United Nations and international visitors. This Committee’s recommendations shall not be binding but shall be of an advisory nature only.


18 responses to “RTM Ordinance Writer Says: TEAM Westport Always “Advisory Only”

  1. So where does the claim come from?

    “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.”

    Is this just made up out of thin air?

    • Since reading the letter sent to Selectwoman Tooker, I’ve found it extremely hard to believe each Town administration since TEAM’s inception has irresponsibly ignored the responsibility to managing the committee, I remain hopeful that this is merely the attorney having conflated the mandates for elected Boards and Commissions with the management of an advisory committee. I’m thankful for Ann’s message above which seems to lend validity to that hope.

      • That supposition that they “conflated the mandates for elected Boards and Commissions with the management of an advisory committee” fits very well with the second part of the lawsuit that Dan quoted: that “only electors of the Town may be appointed to serve on elected or appointed boards and commissions of the Town.”

  2. Ellen Dale Naftalin

    This has made me sign up and follow TEAM. Seems like a worthy cause needed now more than ever.

  3. BOOM! (Thanks Ann)

  4. Although I had not been aware of TEAM and the valuable voice it offers to Westport, I now am. And am happy to donate to their committee. We need them now, more than ever.

  5. Robert M Gerrity

    BOOM BOOM. Double-Thanks, classmate. Its good you stayed in town.

  6. Dick Lowenstein

    Here is the link to the town’s listing of appointed boards and commissions:


    It is prefaced by this statement:

    “The members of the following Boards and Commissions are electors of Westport. An elector is defined as an individual who is a resident of Westport and is registered to vote in Westport.”

    If any of the listed entities don’t meet the elector membershiprequirement, let’s fix them quickly!

  7. January Stewart

    Oh snap! What an end to this story…one that started out a bit like a John Grisham novel. There’s a lawyer, and a list of demands, and if those demands aren’t met by Friday, well then…he’ll see you in court!

    One good thing that came out of it, in addition to all the publicity and awareness raised for Team Westport, is that the names of the lawyer and the 2 people he represented will be forever attached to this story. Using their real names.

  8. TEAM was made a town entity because – of its own accord – it was doing great things within this community. Several solutions present to alleviate this grievous deviation from town policy (don’t really think it’s a law).
    1) Seeing as it began an unofficial entity – TEAM can go back to unofficial. We will all learn that doing a job so well that you are adopted by the Town, is a mistake.
    2) Elect a “board” that encompasses the representation ratios that this group so yearns for. Everyone else can come and have a say and work as they always have. They will just have member after their name rather than director. Business as usual.
    3) This discussion has drawn attention to the good works of TEAM. I talk everyday to people who are donating when they haven’t before. I have to believe these people would also be willing lend their name to the Board.
    Let’s just choose one and get on with finding out what is the next thing that this group will do to get attention.
    Or we could approach this as we do as parents – don’t reward the whiny child at all.

  9. Gloria Gouveia

    TO: Ann Sheffer & Bill Sheffler; Dick Lowenstein & Marla Cowden,

    Perhaps it’s time to add a Committee of Elders, populated with those of us of a certain age that have decades of experience in Town affairs and long memories. In times of municipal conflict, we could provide knowledge, guidance and history.

  10. My main take-away from all this drama is there are many people out there with way too much time on their hands. This may already be the runaway winner for 2022’s “Biggest Non-Story” ! Good intentions are doubtless but com’n people!

  11. Wendy Batteau

    Here is a link to the minutes of the August 2, 2005, RTM meeting at which the ordinance about TEAM Westport was approved. These affirm Ann Sheffer’s remarks. Further, comments by most of the representatives who spoke are inspirational and reveal continuing the values underlying our community. https://ecode360.com/documents/WE0657/public/22502285.pdf

    • Christine Meiers Schatz

      As much as I would like to think that this is dispositive, I’m not sure it actually is. The plain language of the statute puts the committee in a subsection regarding Boards and Commissions. I’m looking forward to reading the town attorney’s response to the letter to learn more. If this was a mistake made by them (I hope not), I also hope they will further discount any legal fees incurred here.

  12. The operative word here is “Advisory”. The danger in advising certain entities, specifically government or elected officials is that this advisory (recommendations) reporting many times leads those entities to believe this is the majority opinion and message of their constituents and electors.

    Obviously TEAM Westport has undertaken and provided some great community programs and support. Let’s all hope these accomplishments continue and prosper.

    We must however be careful not to let these “ADVISORY” bodies set up with local administrators, agency participations and confirmation advise and speak to many social issues and political ideology as though this is the majority community position.

    I think the community of Westport be concerned that sometimes these advisory (recommendation) groups get very much micro-focused on items like microaggression, diversity, equity and racial disparity and inject a lot of their philosophies into our educational system with Town approval that tend to purport that the majority of Westporters agree and support their philosophies and directions.

  13. Just because an appointed board is advisory doesn’t mean it’s OK to hold illegal meetings and trample the Charter. The Village District Committee is also advisory and it holds public meetings. Its recommendations often get picked up by P&Z as (legally binding) conditions of approval. In any event, I’m kinda glad the whole sloppy/casual appointee thing is getting some air time. It’s not exactly a huge secret that there are people serving on boards here that don’t live here. What bugs me more is the appointee who has served waaaay beyond his or her term limits without any doubt and is running amuck. But you point it out and what happens? You get some tortured opinion from the Town Attorney’s Office justifying the absurdity. That’s not good government and it sends a message which really ought not be sent.

    • Bill Strittmatter

      Morley is correct. The Westport Town Charter is pretty clear on the composition of boards or commissions as well as term limits with no exception for advisory or other entities aside from the Youth Commission to allow students to participate.


      Seems like something that can easily be rectified either by disassociating TEAM from the town or correcting its composition. Best answer is probably to do one or the other and make the lawsuit moot.

      If no one wants to change the composition and instead go the disassociate route, maybe Dan can fold TEAM under his new charitable umbrella?

  14. Thomas Jendrock

    Support TEAM Westport! Support diversity, dialogue, inclusion, and equality! Oppose cowardly anonymous comments! Follow the rules of the 06880 (like everyone else) blog or do not participate!