Tag Archives: Vincent Marino

Resident: Student Reps On Board of Ed “Illegal”

The Board of Education will add 2 high school representatives soon: one senior and one junior, both from Staples.

There are caveats. They cannot vote or read board correspondence. They will not attend executive sessions (which may deal with personnel, security and other sensitive matters). They must be in good academic standing.

It’s not a novel concept. At least a dozen other districts in the state — including Madison, where superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice previously served — have student representatives on their Boards of Education.

All 4 Democrats voted in favor of the proposal. All 3 Republicans opposed it.

Most public comment was positive. One resident, Camilo Riano, wondered why students should have more rights than he does in addressing the board.

Staples PTA co-president Michele Carey-Moody noted that any adult who wants a voice on the Board of Ed could run for a seat on it.

Now Riano has taken his concerns a step further.

He retained attorney Vincent Marino, who emailed 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker.

Marino says, “the Board will grant these new appointees the privilege to participate during each meeting ‘seated at the Board table’ with the right and expectation ‘to contribute to the Board’s decision-making process.’…

“The student representatives are expected to recommend suggestions and topics. for discussion and consideration by the Board.’ The student representatives are further expected to ‘speak on any issue on the Board meeting agenda or motion before the Board.'”

Riano charges the Board with illegally creating 2 ex-officio membership positions, not authorized by the town charter or Representative Town Meeting.

Riano says that the charter does not establish or authorize ex-officio positions, or give the board the authority to increase its membership, and that all members shall be elected.

Marino emailed Tooker because, he says, “if such authority exists, it rests with the RTM or with you as First Selectwoman, not with the Board itself. The Board’s action is, at a minimum, an illegal usurpation of legislative authority.”

On behalf of Riano, he requests that Tooker rule the board’s action out of order, “and void ab initio.”

He adds, “If permitted to stand, the Board’s illegal action creates a precedent that boards and commissions can circumvent the RTM and unilaterally disrupt the composition of their membership, including the partisan balance.”

Scarice and Board of Ed chair Lee Goldstein said they had been advised by the board’s attorney that the board could add student representatives.

Late yesterday, 1st Selectwoman Tooker could not be reached for comment.

(“06880” is your hyper-local blog. Please click here to support our work, with a tax-deductible contribution. Thank you!)

Tooker Affirms TEAM Westport Commitment — With Member Requirement Change

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.


Tooker added:

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.

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.)