TEAM Westport will continue to operate as the town’s multicultural body. However, membership criteria will be tightened.
That’s the crux of a letter sent by 1st Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker to attorney Vincent Marino of Orange. She responded to his clients — Westporters Zack Alcyone and Camilo Riano — who charged last month that the group was illegally constituted.
Marino said that too many members are from one political party; that not all are Westport electors, and that several served longer than the town charter allows.
Members had been appointed by Democratic and Republican selectpersons, dating back to TEAM Westport’s formal recognition in 2005.
After consulting with town attorney Ira Bloom, Tooker said:
First and foremost, the work of TEAM Westport is important to the future of our community by helping to ensure that every — residents, employees, business owners and visitors alike — feels that they belong and are welcome here.
The town of Westport thrives on the volunteer efforts numerous people, including members of TEAM Westport, who generously give of their talent and time. I am so grateful for our appointed board, commission and committee members who help make Westport the best place to live, work, and play.
Bloom told Tooker that because TEAM Westport is “advisory” — and formed with “the intention to utilize the most qualified volunteers to offer guidance and advice” — it is not subject to the same charter provisions as boards and commissions.
However, she noted, Bloom advised that the minority representation rule should be applied. She will make sure that no more than 50% of members come from the same political party.
I am fully committed to maintaining and preserving the original mission of TEAM Westport. It is crucial.
I am confident we have the knowledge and expertise among our residents here in Westport to fulfill the slightly amended membership requirements, and that TEAM Westport will continue to serve our community in it advisory role in creating a more welcoming, multicultural Westport.
“Bloom told Tooker that because TEAM Westport is “advisory” — and formed with “the intention to utilize the most qualified volunteers to offer guidance and advice” — it is not subject to the same charter provisions as boards and commissions.”
That is sort of an interesting take for two reasons.
First: An advisory vs non-advisory distinction doesn’t appear anywhere in the Town/Charter which appears to be absolute with regard to boards and committees.
Second: Putting that aside, the implication then is for those entities that actually are responsible for doing something rather than advising, the intention isn’t necessarily to have the most qualified people doing it? Westport wants what? Unqualified political hacks? Maybe folks with a bent toward corruption and seeking kickbacks as seems to have happened at the state level and next door in Fairfield and Bridgeport?
Seems like someone has gone through a few contortions to justify past actions. Would be interesting to see if that interpretation actually stood up in court. I imagine the weakness of the analysis is what led to the conclusion that minority representation rule should be applied even though it “is not subject to the same charter provisions”.
Hmmm, I’m with Bill on the slightly tortured interpretation of “advisory”. At any rate, when our town’s huge bicentennial historic plaque was disappeared without warning last year – and replaced by something which, shall we say, fits the current fashion – was that an advisory action by TEAM? I’m only asking because I understand that TEAM is working – I mean advising- on another historic plaque.
Seems like a bit of a stretch as team Westport is listed on the charter under appointed boards and councils. Seems like the rules should apply.
Also now that they get a reserved spot on the citizen review board seems like they are tip toeing out of advisory only.