As Chairs of Districts 3 and 8, Steven Rubin and Cheryl Moss demand newly elected RTM members from Districts 3 and 8 be seated immediately.
We are calling for the RTM Members from District 3, Dawn Fortunato and District 8, Jim Finn, to be seated immediately after having been duly elected in September and sworn in by the town clerk.
Mr. Finn was voted to an interim position on the RTM by a vote of 14-1-1. Ms. Fortunato was voted in by a vote of 8-0-0. Both were sworn in by the Town Clerk, Jackie Budkins, at town hall the following day.
Unfortunately, Mr. Finn and Ms. Fortunato were informed by the town attorney less than two hours before the September 18 RTM meeting that, “It is the recommendation of the (Town) law department that the two individuals (Mr. Finn and Ms. Fortunato) who were voted in be notified of this issue and not participate in this evening’s meeting until we have all the information necessary to determine whether the meetings were properly posted in compliance with FOIA.”
The “issue” was raised by 3 RTM Republicans on the morning of the September 18 RTM meeting – Michael Spilo, Rosalind Nicastro and Phil Dodson, the only member of District 8 to vote against Mr. Finn.
These three RTM members claim the meeting was not properly noticed by the Town Clerk. The Town Clerk did send the proper notice to the members of Districts 3 and 8, but then only posted on the town website that there was an opening in each district without including the date, time or place. Anyone seeing the notice would have ample time to reach out to the Town Clerk’s office to find these details.
This technicality in no way changes the fact that Mr. Finn and Ms. Fortunato were duly elected and sworn in.
In fact, the proper channel for Mr. Spilo and company was the Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC), who has advised in all likelihood, sufficient notice of the September 13 meeting was given, and that it is their purview alone to make such a decision.
The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) statute specifically states that the FOIC is in charge of making the determination if the act has been violated and only then may (not shall) they declare actions taken at the meeting to be considered null and void. See Connecticut General Statute Sec. 1-206, subsec. (b)(2) excerpted as follows:
“The commission may declare null and void any action taken at any meeting which a person was denied the right to attend and may require the production of copying of any public record…”
In short, the town attorney was not in a position to make this call.
These shenanigans are right out of the MAGA national playbook. If you don’t like the outcome of a fair election, try to make an end-run around the proper channels to avoid sitting a duly elected and sworn in RTM member.
According to advice from the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC), the town is once again opening itself up to a potential lawsuit by disenfranchising voters from Districts 3 and 8.
Clearly Mr. Finn and Ms. Fortunato should be full voting members at our upcoming district and RTM meetings unless the FOIC says otherwise.
No town attorney or RTM members have the authority to change votes on duly elected and sworn in officials.