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Town Attorney: Education Employee Can Serve As Councilor, But Cannot Vote On Budgets

Some had called for the resignation of Councilor Tanner, who works as a Montville schools paraprofessional.

 

Town attorney Eileen Duggan told the Town Council Monday that in her opinion, an employee of the Montville school department or Board of Education can serve as a Town Councilor, but she also held that it would be a conflict for that person to vote on education budgets.

The issue came up at  Town councilor Laura Tanner abstained from voting; she is employed by the schools as a paraprofessional.  A number of residents at that meeting chortled when Tanner recused herself and one questioned her position as a town councilor.

In a press release sent to Patch last week, Jim Andriote Sr., chair of Independence for Montville, called for Tanner to “resign immediately.” He said that the town charter prohibits town employees from being town councilors:  “Except where authorized by law or otherwise specifically required by this Charter, no Councilor shall hold any other Town office or Town employment during the term for which he was elected to the Town Council…”

But Duggan said that despite provisions of the charter, state statute supersedes that law and, she said, specifically allows a board of education employee to serve “without conflict.”

Andriote charges that, “At no point, following the election did Councilor Tanner indicate she was still employed by the Board of Education until the previous mentioned meeting. “

“Based on the above information, Ms. Tanner should resign immediately.  Additionally, any votes that she has participated in should be struck from the record,” he said.

Duggan did say that while a town employee can serve, s/he cannot vote. Duggan said that a councilor who also happens to be employed by the school department may not vote on a budget.

“In my opinion, there did exist a conflict,” Duggan said.

In related school money matters

Councilor Gary Murphy, liaison to the BOE said he was told that the schools had a larger amount budgeted for “power, electricity and fuel, so they found some money, savings” which means, he said, that layoffs have been further reduced to 2.5.

Another opinion

Duggan also told the council that in her opinion, a petition to call for a change to the mill rate is not allowed.

Councilor Dana McFee said there’s a petition circulating that could see the budget go to referendum.

 

theinformant June 14, 2012 at 01:54 PM
J. Arrington Please do check the Town Clerks Office. If you don’t find a Legal Opinion on file about Councilor Buebendorf request, then it must mean that there is no Legal opinion from the previous Town Attorney and that means this Town Attorney is just making up her own rules again and Mr. Longton is once again just spouting out false statements. It would be interesting to know if Councilor Buebendorf's request was obtained legally or not.
Elizabeth June 14, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I was talking about the current opinion, not the one from 2007. True, an opinion was obtained back in 2007, but rather than use that opinion, Councilor McFee requested a new opinion, only to receive the same answer.
Dana McFee June 15, 2012 at 12:32 AM
ahh Elizabeth, I see mommy is sharing confindential information with you.BTW mommy didnt file that oppinion with the town clerk so only your mommy knew about it. That is why the "current" opinion was asked for.
Jim Andriote Sr. June 15, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Chuck You are not giving true information. What the informant said was true. What the town Attorney says is not gospel. She is just saying what you and the Democrats want her to say. She states what the Attorney ruled back in 2007 as a reference to her opinion. I believe there was no ruling. If there was then why wasn’t it filed with the clerk’s office this way? Ask yourself •There is no time stamp from the Town Clerk's office where legal opinions should be filed. •Why is the 2007 attorney's opinion addressed to Buebendorf's home versus the Town Hall? •Why aren't any other councilors or the Mayor on the list of recipients? (cc's) •Why was the 2007 opinion even requested? Was it because Buebendorf was seeking employment as a teacher while serving as a town councilor? Also, I agree with the informant, He/She State Statues only supersede town charters when the charter weakens the Statue. In this case the Charter strengthens the Statue. Seconded of all it doesn’t specifically state Board of Ed. Employees. I assume once again you didn’t read it you just went by the Town Attorneys opinion, which isn’t worth the paper her contract was written on.
Dana McFee June 23, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Mt Longton states............ Chuck Longton 7:45 pm on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 Attorney Bruce Chudwick, council for the previous Republican and Independent run Council, addressed this same question and provided the same answer, based on the same state law, which overrides any town code. That law states specifically that members of the Board of Education may hold elective office in the town; with no qualifiers of any kind. So how is it possible to say that the Town Attorney’s opinion is biased toward the Democrats when the Republican and Independent’s attorney returned the same opinion? Chuck –Chuck- Chuck why would you say such a thing? It was atty. Fiengo from Suisman,Shapiro who gave that opinion and it was back in 2007 asked for by none other than Candy Buebendorf the council chair of the democraticaly controlled council (I guess she forgot to tell you) because she was applying for a job in the Montville school system. Had it been a republican / Independent controlled council Buebendorf would have paid for that opinion out of her own pocket instead of the taxpayers and that opinion would have been recorded in the Town Clerks office where it should have been so that question would not have had to be asked again.

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