Court Agrees SW has Standing
Sensible Wilton is pleased to announce that in a thoughtful, 16-page decision filed on Friday 13th, Judge Kenneth Povodator of the Connecticut Superior Court denied the Board of Selectmen’s motion, which sought to dismiss Sensible Wilton’s lawsuit to compel the Board of Selectmen to call a Special Town Meeting to vote on whether to repeal the funding for the Miller-Driscoll project. In rejecting the Board of Selectmen’s reliance on “technical contentions” (p. 7) to argue that Sensible Wilton lacked standing to bring this lawsuit–in other words, that Sensible Wilton was not the proper party to bring this case–Judge Povodator, who presided over a day-long hearing in July 2015 at which both Alex Ruskewich and Curtis Noel testified, ruled that “[t]he facts presented to the court appear to be sufficient to establish the standing of the plaintiff to pursue this matter further” (p. 14).
Although the Court has not yet ruled on the merits of whether to direct the Board of Selectmen to call such a Special Town Meeting, Judge Povodator’s concluding remarks are perhaps most significant. Having found that Sensible Wilton had established its standing to proceed, and after observing that the Town of Wilton has adopted the traditional town meeting form of government as opposed to a representative town meeting, Judge Povodator then held that “[a] group of electors submitted a petition, assisted and/or coordinated by the plaintiff and its founders, seeking to have the proposal for a new ordinance considered by way of a Special Town Meeting and subsequent vote/referendum. At least hundreds of electors had signed the petition….Those electors are, in a sense, being disenfranchised by the action of the defendants–or more accurately, the executive branch of the Town is precluding legislative consideration of a proposed ordinance, by refusing to act upon a petition seeking to commence the legislative process.…That loss of a Charter-based right to submit a proposed ordinance constitutes a colorable claim of injury for each of the petition-signing electors including Mr. Ruskewich and Mr. Noel[.]” (pp. 15-16).
Consequently, and despite the tremendous resources committed by the Town’s attorneys in an effort to stop this lawsuit, Sensible Wilton’s claim will be considered on its merits in the near future.
SW Press Release
On June 1st, Sensible Wilton (SW) filed suit in Connecticut Superior Court to compel the Town of Wilton Board of Selectmen to fulfill its obligations under the town charter to call a Special Town Meeting, in order to vote on whether to repeal the $50,022,000 bonding authorization for the Miller-Driscoll (MD) renovation project.
Sensible Wilton is NOT looking for monetary damages and is NOT seeking an injunction to stop the renovation process at this time, only an expedited hearing and vote at the earliest possible date, as is a legal right under the town charter.
Claims that Sensible Wilton “just wants to fix the roof and HVAC” are completely untrue. However, the renovation project contemplated by town leadership – the largest capital project in town history – goes far beyond what is necessary or appropriate to provide our children and educators with a first-rate, code-complaint school facility.
Evidence obtained following the vote documents that town leadership, including First Selectman William Brennan, engaged in a massive marketing campaign and expended thousands of taxpayer dollars to “sell” the project to voters. Such conduct constitutes a serious violation of Connecticut election law, which strictly prohibits the expenditure of taxpayer money or use of government property or assets to advocate for a position on a referendum.
SW promptly filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC), which unanimously agreed to investigate, and which is expected to issue a decision in the coming weeks. We expect the results will vindicate our complaint, especially given the detailed documentation of prohibited activities that was provided to the SEEC.
SW has also discovered essential facts in the possession of town leadership that were not provided to citizens. One example is their knowledge of declining student enrollment that was not factored into enrollment projections used as a basis for building needs.
In January 2014, a demographic study of Wilton Public Schools concluded that enrollment will drop significantly every year going forward for the foreseeable future, including a decline of approximately 13% in the pre-K population over the next five years, and a decline of 27% in the K-2 population in the same period. This report was known to town officials but neither discussed nor disclosed prior to the referendum. A subsequent demographic study in April 2015 also confirmed declining enrollment.
Not only is there not a “growing” pre-K population as has often been stated, there is no substantiation of any enrollment projections used for the project.
SW is not alone in believing that the Miller-Driscoll project as currently constituted is fiscally irresponsible and will significantly damage the Town of Wilton and its taxpayers.
In addition to almost 1,400 signatures on two SW petitions and an outpouring of support from many more of Wilton’s electors, there are members of town boards and commissions who have quietly agreed that the Miller-Driscoll project is ill-advised.
SW submits that a Special Town Meeting, conducted in full compliance with state law, should be held as soon as possible to allow the citizens of Wilton to decide whether it makes sense to proceed with this $50.2 million project, based on additional facts that have come to light.
Sensible Wilton is an advocate for transparent and fiscally responsible practices and adherence to established policies, statues and laws in the town of Wilton, CT. www.sensiblewilton.org
To view the filing:
Full complaint with exhibits