November 1, 2005

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

 

In a recent Hartford Courant article (“Big Stores Have Politicians On Edge”), Simsbury Selectman Joel Mandell (R) reportedly stated that fellow selectmen John Hampton (D) and John Romano (R) were “misguided” for publicly stating their positions on future economic development in Simsbury.  That is, Mr. Mandell criticized Mr. Hampton and Mr. Romano for publically stating that they are against large scale retail development (e.g., “big box”) that is inconsistent with the character of Simsbury.  Mr. Mandell argued that, under Connecticut law, Mr. Hampton and Mr. Romano may have to recluse themselves from voting on the anticipated Plan of Conservation and Development (“POCD”), now being drafted by the Planning Commission, because they have “prejudged” the issues.  Mr. Mandell refuses to give his opinion on these issues and takes umbrage at the fact that numerous citizens have asked him for his opinion.

 

Mr. Mandell’s views, we submit, (1) violate basic notions of openness and transparency that are essential to the democratic process, particularly during an election year; and (2) misapprehend the legislative and quasi-judicial functions of town boards and commissions.

 

While “prejudging” is inappropriate in the context of judicial or quasi-judicial functions, it is perfectly appropriate in the context of legislative functions.  The drafting and approval of the new POCD and Zoning Regulations are, without doubt, legislative functions.

 

The same reasoning applies to candidates for the Planning and Zoning Commissions. Unlike the Board of Selectmen, those commissions have both legislative and quasi-judicial functions. The Commissioners legislate when they draft and vote on the laws of the town, i.e., the POCD and the Zoning Regulations. Candidates may state publicly their positions on those matters without being disqualified from voting on them.   The Zoning Commissioners and Planning Commissioners are precluded from “prejudging” matters when performing, what we would call, their “quasi-judicial” function; that is, deciding whether a particular application is consistent with the governing Zoning Regulations and the POCD.

 

We were very disappointed to see Mr. Mandell criticize his fellow selectmen for publicly stating their positions on matters of public interest, make statements that evidence a lack of openness and transparency in the democratic process, confuse the legislative and quasi-judicial functions of town boards and commissions and misapprehend Connecticut statutes governing municipal business.

 

Cal Anderson

James Dykes

Robert Ecker

Kirsten Greibel

Duncan MacKay

William Miller

Alan Needham