Election 2016: How New Canaan Voted on Charter Questions, Contested Races

Local electors on Tuesday voted in favor of four recommended changes to New Canaan’s major governing document, including one widely discussed and hotly disputed change involving the role of the town’s highest elected official. By a 5,120-to-3,326 margin, locals voted in favor of updating the Town Charter so that New Canaan’s first selectman no longer serves as the chairman of the Board of Finance. Instead, voters decided on an Election Day that saw unusually high turnout, the first selectman will remain an ex officio member of the finance board who casts tie-breaking votes but the group’s chairman will be elected from its ranks. Here’s a chart that details the Charter revision results:


David Hunt, chairman of the Charter Revision Commission, which studied the Charter and interviewed municipal leaders in town to form its recommendations, said the group “would have liked five ‘yeses’ on one level, but we are very pleased with the result.”

“The Charter Revision Commission worked very hard to put together recommendations that we thought would improve the governance of the town of New Canaan,” Hunt said. “And the people of New Canaan largely agreed with the recommendations.

League of Women Voters, Charter Revision Commission Hold Info Session at Town Hall

The most widely discussed suggested change to New Canaan’s major governing document that voters will face on Election Day came as a result of careful study of several neighbors and deliberate consideration of the town’s municipal structure, officials said Tuesday night. In recommending that New Canaan remove the first selectman from the role of chairing the Board of Finance, the volunteer panel charged with studying the Town Charter looked around and found that the funding body was elected, rather than appointed, in nearby towns, members of the Charter Revision Commission said during a League of Women Voters of New Canaan information session. “And so what we tried to do was find the best check and balance for the system that we have,” commissioner Kate Hurlock said during the session, held at Town Hall. “Because for all of the interviews that we did, it was overwhelmingly clear that the people that we spoke to wanted to keep the Board of Finance appointed and for reasons of the complexity of our budget and the size of our town and the talent in our town, it made sense to preserve that. So preserving that, how could we ensure a check and balance in that environment?

‘Scary and Slippery Slope’: With Reservations, Selectmen OK New Counsel for FOI Request

Saying they hoped it wouldn’t set a bad precedent or promote lack of transparency in town government, officials on Wednesday approved an appointed body’s request to engage a lawyer regarding an unexpected Freedom of Information Act request. The FOIA request, filed by a town resident, seeks to know just who said what to members of the Charter Revision Commission, a volunteer group that convened one year ago to study and recommend changes to New Canaan’s major governing document. As the full commission worked toward forming its Town Charter recommendations —to be put before New Canaan voters on Election Day, following approval from the Town Council—a subcommittee gathering information to inform the full commission conducted interviews with municipal employees and leaders on the boards that help govern the town. Those interviewees had been told their identities would be kept confidential—an assertion now in question. According to Town Council Chairman Bill Walbert, the Charter Revision Commission after receiving the FOIA request checked with the town attorney and others about its position and “the advice they were getting did not jibe with what they felt in their hearts—I guess is probably the best way to say it.”

“And they felt they would like to have different counsel whose thought process was more in line with that they felt their proper stance was,” Walbert told the Board of Selectmen during its regular meeting, held at Town Hall.

‘It Is Our Constitution’: Public Hearing Wednesday on Suggested Changes To Town Charter

The volunteer panel charged with studying and recommending changes to New Canaan’s major governing document is calling for residents to make their voices heard at a public hearing to be held Wednesday night. New Canaan’s Charter “is our Constitution,” according to Dave Hunt, chairman of the Charter Revision Commission, which has been meeting regularly since last fall. “It is serves that function, so it sets the stage for the standards for all of government,” he said. “So our task is to review that and try to have the best possible government for the town of New Canaan, and to make changes where we see an opportunity to make things better, understanding that you have to think about consequences that may be in the opposite direction.”

The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Town Meeting Room. A draft copy of the commission’s report to the Town Council can be found here on the town website and as a PDF at the end of this article.

‘We Should Embrace Things That Are Unique To New Canaan’: First Selectman Questions Suggested Change out of Charter Revision

In suggesting that the first selectman should no longer serve as chairman of a major funding body in municipal government, the volunteers now studying New Canaan’s main governing document are creating a problem where none has ever existed, the town’s highest elected official said. It doesn’t appear that any active members of the Board of Finance favor making a change to the group’s chairmanship, First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said in an interview. “Certainly it is a unique situation in New Canaan but it is one that absolutely works,” he told NewCanaanite.com. “It is almost like the Charter Revision Commission has sought to create a problem that did not exist.”

“The volunteers that are the active on the Board of Finance are very, very pleased with the present setup of things and have found it extremely workable for them. I believe that they want to get answers as to what was the driving force for Charter Revision Commission to suggest such a change when such a change was not brought to the Charter Revision Commission by members of the Board of Finance.”

The comments follow the Charter Revision Commission’s votes in favor of changes to the role of the first selectman with respect to the finance board.