Shelton Charter revision makeup concerns Dems

SHELTON — Democrats are concerned by the political makeup of a newly formed Charter Revision Commission.

The all-Republican Board of Aldermen at its Jan. 9 meeting unanimously voted to create a Charter Revision Commission, then appointed four Republicans, two unaffiliated and one Democrat to the seven-member group, which is charged with completing a draft report by May 8, 2021.

Republicans Dan Debicella, Gary Defilippo, Ruth Parkins and Darlisa Ritter; unaffiliated members, David Presutto and Ruth Ann Dunford, and Democrat Donald Sheehy were named to the commission.

Democratic Town Committee Chair David Gioiello, present at the meeting, had recommended himself and fellow Democrats Michelle Laubin and Wayne Bragg for commission seats. Shelton High senior Matt McGee, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for an alderman seat in the Third Ward in November, had created a petition campaign that garnered more than 100 signatures in his quest for a seat.

After the names were announced, “I’m not surprised,” said Gioiello, adding that the DTC candidates all have experience in city government and with the charter. “I don’t know the Democrat that they named, but I think they have a mission. We’ll see what comes out of it.”

Gioiello said if the commission comes forward with revisions that attempt to change political distribution on the Board of Education — such as giving the majority a 6-3 advantage — or other changes Democrats feel will reduce the input of citizens into how the city is run, “then we’ll oppose that.”

The Board of Education by charter has to be a 5-4 split of political parties and is currently five Republicans and four Democrats. In an election, the top vote-getters in each party get seats, instead of the top voter-getters overall.

McGee, who spoke during the meeting’s public portion touting his candidacy, said he was also disappointed but not surprised by the political makeup of the commission.

“One point of view is represented while all the others are totally left out of the process,” said McGee after the meeting.

McGee said he was the only person who sought a seat on the commission who knocked on doors and talked to residents about the issue of charter review.

“None of the other candidates appointed to the Charter Revision Commission even bothered to show up to the Board of Aldermen meeting … it’s really a shame,” added McGee. “Shelton deserves better public servants than this. Regardless, the fight for transparency and true representation at City Hall continues.”

Board President John Anglace Jr. made the announcement last month that a Charter Revision Commission would be formed.

Anglace said no more than four of the seven members can be from one political party. The commission will be charged with looking at the current charter, making suggestions for updates and changes, completing its work and presenting a draft report to the aldermen so it can be placed in the 2021 municipal election ballot.

The commission must hold two public hearings, one before the group begins its work and the second after the draft report has been submitted to the Board of Aldermen.

Anglace said the aldermen must also hold a public hearing on any recommended charter changes before it goes to a vote.

Anglace said the last charter revision was completed in 2012, so “commencing the process at this time will bring us within the 10-year period. Since our Plan of Conservation and Development is reviewed on a 10-year cycle, it would be appropriate to conduct review of the charter on the same or similar cycle.”

At this point, Anglace said the Board of Aldermen’s responsibility is to appoint or not appoint a commission.

“By statute, the commission will decide their subject review agenda,” said Anglace. “The appointing authority has a role, but at this point in the process, we believe it appropriate to create the commission and let them get on with the process to provide everyone with subject suggestions. The Board of Aldermen will have plenty of opportunity to comment later.”