Shelton board member claims recent budget transfers violate charter

The Board of Apportionment & Taxation has not met for months and one board member is claiming the financial moves made by the Board of Aldermen over that time represent a violation of the city charter.

In July, Michelle Laubin and fellow Democratic board members Joe Knapik and Steven Guralnick sent a letter to city corporation counsel Fran Teodosio asking if the charter had been violated by the cancellation of taxation board meetings and the subsequent handling of all budget transfers by the Board of Aldermen instead.

To this point, Teodosio has not rendered an opinion on the Democrats’ request.

But after yet another board meeting was canceled Thursday night, Laubin, who was re-elected to the taxation board in November, sent an email to her fellow board members and city Finance Director Paul Hiller listing her grievances.

“Preventing the meeting of the board, if this is being done by city administration, is a dereliction of the duties of our public officials,” stated Laubin, “and contravenes the responsibility of City Hall to ensure that oversight of expenditure of taxpayer dollars is being done with public oversight as required by the charter.”

Republican A&T members John Belden, John J. Francino-Quinn and John Boyko did not respond to requests for comment.

Mayor Mark Lauretti, a Republican, has disagreed with Laubin’s statements in the past, saying the Board of Aldermen is the city’s financial authority and can handle any necessary budget transfers, and approval from the Board of Apportionment and Taxation is not needed for the aldermen to complete such transfers.

“If they understood what they were doing, they would know the first six months after the budget is approved there are no need for transfers,” said Lauretti, adding that he has not canceled any A&T meetings as he has been accused. “They are not scheduled because there is no need to have meetings right now.”

Laubin said that the charter states that taxation board is the sole authority under the city charter authorized to transfer money between line items in the budget within the same department, during the regular fiscal year.

But, Laubin said, according to the Board of Aldermen Finance Committee’s Sept. 24 meeting minutes, Aldermen President John Anglace, Jr., reviewed numerous accounts in the city budget that were overrun for various reasons.

“Failing to convene the Board of A&T in the face of documented budget overruns in numerous departments is simply dereliction of duty and a violation of the oath of office of every elected official on the board, inclusive of the mayor, who is charged with presiding over the meetings,” said Laubin.

Laubin said the cancellation of two meetings following the November election was also a charter violation, since the charter states the board should choose a chairman at its first regular meeting after an election.

“We cannot continue to allow the meetings to be canceled and forego the election of a chair to act in the absence of the mayor, nor can we continue to neglect the required oversight of the city budget,” said Laubin. “The city departments are not authorized to overspend their line items, in violation of the budget adopted by the Board of Aldermen. Money must be transferred into the appropriate accounts by the Board of A&T with bipartisan oversight as required by the charter.”

The Board of Apportionment and Taxation has six members; three Republicans and three Democrats, by charter, and there are two new members after the most recent election. Former Chair Karen Battistelli did not run for re-election, so whenever the board meets again, a vote for chair will be needed. Lauretti, as ex-officio member, would be needed to attend to break any ties.