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RTM Blocks Additional Oversight On First Selectman's Capacity to Begin a Lawsuit

Republican minority wants the RTM to reconsider the proposal next year.

With concern expressed because of the resolution’s ground-breaking status, the RTM on Wednesday, blocked a proposal to add legal oversight by town bodies, such as the Board of Finance, to the capacity to initiate a lawsuit.

At present, the first selectman, as the chief executive officer of the town, has the innate power to begin a lawsuit on behalf of the town. Former first selectman and present third selectman John E. Opie, a Republican, had drafted the proposal. 

“I’m not finding that breaking new ground is the way to do this,” said Andrew Campbell, a Democrat, who presented the report from the Rules and Ordinance Committee.  The committee had voted down the proposal as drafted Tuesday night. 

“We don’t have firm ground to go forward on in this committee,” he said.

With 10 members in opposition, eleven members of the RTM voted not to refer the proposal back to committee for more study, effectively killing the proposal for this term.  

Campbell also termed the area of attorney-client privilege very gray were, for instance, the town’s six-member board of finance to discuss a lawsuit before the town proceeded with it.

Representative Paul Muniz, who is also a Democrat, termed the proposal half-baked.

Opie came to the meeting to disagree with the R & O committee’s assessment.  In his presentation before the RTM he said flatly, “This is about business and the business practices of the town.”

He observed that the town does not often initiate a lawsuit, but that, recently, it had undertaken two. The first is the lawsuit the town undertook against its insurance carriers to cover not only a judgment in the Tabor land case but also the suit’s substantial legal costs and fees.

The second, and the lawsuit that Opie sees as the more ominous of the two, has involved the town in litigation against the _that once served as town counsel.

“This is not going to end well,” Opie observed of the second case.  “If you lose, there will be repercussions.”

“Once the pin is pulled on a grenade, there’s not a lot to talk about,” he said. “The ramifications could be in the millions.”

To assert what is presently the first selectman’s right to initiate a suit, he had suggested in his proposal, that oversight come from the Board of Finance which, with six members, plus the first selectman, he deemed just the right size to determine the merits of a suit.

“There’s really no harm in doing this,” he said.

Minority Leader Frank Twohill, Jr., who supported the resolution as a matter of checks and balances within town government, pointed out that a lawsuit can go well beyond the two-year term of the first selectman who initiates it.  

Yet, he said, it can cost the taxpayer thousands and thousands of dollars.

After the full RTM blocked the resolution, Representative Richard Greenalch, Jr., acknowledged that he had seen the defeat coming. 

“If we don’t look at reversing the [committee] decision tonight, we [should] look at doing so next year.

“It’s implied in here,” he said of the additional oversight.  “What we want is to make it direct.”

Also at the meeting, the representatives discussed the creation of a town policy concerning   An article will follow on that.

Wayne Cooke September 23, 2011 at 11:47 AM
Why wouldn't the cult members protect their dishonest and vindictive leader, who uses the town attorney, Clendenen, as his own personal henchman? As Clendenen laughs all the way to the bank on taxpayer money.
SolarPete September 23, 2011 at 12:13 PM
So what will happen when the Cooke Family wins this next lawsuit. The town will be out another $100,000.+ and they will be seen in the courts as a lying set of leaders. Maybe this time the state will do the right thing and impeach Unk and his band of crooks. New Name for Unk Chief Bonehead and just like an Indian he said UNK!
Lori Fogler Nicholson September 23, 2011 at 03:27 PM
It's our money and every safeguard available should be considered because we the tax payer are footing the bill not the First Selectmen. A legal oversight committee makes alot of sense in that no one elected official can be a master of all trades...law being one of them. Just remember the town has a responsibility to represent our best interest and if there is any doubt that a legal action will cost tax payers hard earned money without any benifit to them...then maybe a group of people well versed in law should help to make that costly decision. I'm sure the CEO of any successful company does just that so why shouldn't our town CEO respond accordingly.
Wayne Cooke September 23, 2011 at 03:35 PM
RE: why shouldn't our town CEO respond accordingly. RESPONSE: Because DaRos is a vindictive and dishonest political thug.
Ray Ingraham September 23, 2011 at 05:07 PM
Democratic Majority controlled RTM, First Selectmen need no over sight, nor do they need to be held to the rules of the town charter. The only way to stop the rend is to vote a all Republican ticket on November 8th. Vote McConnell / Cosgrove for accountability and honesty. Rid Branford of this dishonest administration, say no to the RTM rubberstamp

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