Stonington selectmen choose members of charter revision commission

Stonington — The Board of Selectmen appointed 11 people this afternoon to the Charter Revision Commission and named attorney Matthew Berger as its acting chairman.

After the board completed its interviews of 18 candidates this afternoon, each of the three selectmen chose three candidates. They then they reached consensus on the final two.

Democratic Selectmen George Crouse chose Berger, Gail Shea and Robert Statchen, who helped lead the petition effort that forced the town to form the commission and address the way Board of Finance members are elected. All three are Democrats.

Republican Selectwoman Glee McAnanly chose Republican Connie Frishman and Amy Hambly along with unaffiliated voter Sue Jones.

Selectman Ed Haberek chose former Selectman John Gomes, former school board chairman James Murphy and Ashley Gillece, all Democrats.

The board then also appointed former Republican Selectman Stephen Bessette and Republican Alice Soscia.

In its resolution, the selectmen instructed the commission to consider the “nomination, balloting, term and party representation requirements" for the Board of Finance, which is what the petition asked for. In addition, selectmen also instructed the commission to “further investigate the present form of government.” State law allows charter review commissions to recommend other changes once the charter is reopened. Voters eventually would have to approve any recommended changes to the charter.

In 2005, voters rejected a charter effort to expand the Board of Selectmen from three to five members and adopt a town manager form of government.

The citizen’s group Change the Charter collected in excess of 1,500 signatures, more than the 10 percent of the town’s 12,220 registered voters that were required, to force the creation of the commission and examine the selection of Board of Finance members.

Every two years, two members — each with six-year terms — come up for election. The current procedure calls for the Democratic and Republican town committees to nominate one candidate for each for the two positions. This means that if there is not a third-party, petitioning or independent candidate, the two party-endorsed candidates run unopposed and are elected. Voters are asked to select one of two candidates on their ballots, but both are elected.

While past attempts to change the process have failed, this year’s effort began this spring when some residents became upset after more than 500 people attended a public hearing on the proposed 2014-15 budget, and the finance board refused their request to restore money it had cut from the school budget and let the voters decide.

Change the Charter has called the system of electing finance board members “wrong, undemocratic and outdated.”

Twitter: @joewojtas


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