Lawyer questions eligibility of two Montville officials

Montville - A Zoning Board of Appeals hearing was canceled this week after an attorney claimed that two members of the board did not meet the eligibility requirements for the board.

Jon Chase, the attorney for Paul E. Chase of Green Falls Associates, whose ZBA hearing was set for Oct. 2, sent a letter to the board on Sept. 27 asking them to postpone the hearing.

Jon Chase argued that his client was entitled to a hearing in front of "a five-person panel of non-disqualified, non-conflicted ZBA members." ZBA members Tom McNally and Gregg Bassetti, said Chase, were both town employees when they ran for office, which should have disqualified them for the position.

The attorney cited a clause from state law that prohibits municipal employees from serving on a board exercising land-use powers. Bassetti is currently employed by the town's Water Pollution and Control Authority, and McNally was employed by the WPCA at the time he was elected in 2011.

"Gregg Bassetti and myself were not aware of a rule that Town employees were not allowed to sit on a land-use commission," explained McNally, who said he first found out about the issue from the town clerk on Wednesday.

Although McNally was fired from his position with the town in June 2012, he is still ineligible to be a ZBA member, Chase said. He said the Secretary of the State's office confirmed that eligibility requirements such as this one must be satisfied on Election Day.

McNally, a Republican, is a candidate for Town Council and said he does not plan to continue to serve on the Zoning Board of Appeals after the election.

Bassetti, also a Republican, was elected to the ZBA and is running for re-election. Mayor Ronald McDaniel said that Bassetti will remain on the ballot but that Bassetti has told the town that he will resign from the ZBA if elected. The Republicans will then be able to appoint a replacement to the board, said McDaniel.

Bassetti could not be reached from comment on Thursday.

The discovery that two members of the ZBA are not eligible for the position is unlikely to affect past rulings, said Chase, although "perhaps unfairly so."

He said the window to appeal a ruling by the ZBA to a court is short and has likely passed for any relevant cases.

k.catalfamo@theday.com

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