To the editor:
In a letter addressed to the RTM dated Jan. 28, attorney Lawrence Weisman meticulously articulated the series of breaches in policy, protocol and precedent which has unnecessarily resulted in the current Long Lots Elementary School disputation.
Because the first selectwoman improperly usurped the authority of the RTM, bypassed the Westport Public Site and Building Commission, and then the RTM failed to properly exercise its charter-derived authority at the outset of this project, the motivation for attorney Weisman’s involvement was to implore the RTM to “right the ship” by reassuming its authorities and responsibilities in accordance with Westport’s Town Charter and deliberate historical precedent which serve to protect the multiplicity of interests of our citizenry.
The adverse consequences of these improprieties, touched upon in his letter, have been glaringly evident. The remedy attorney Weisman proposed was merely that the RTM recognize its error, and take immediate corrective action by reassuming the authorities that they were elected and entrusted to invoke — including the immediate assignment of Westport’s Public Site and Building Commission to the Long Lots Elementary School project and the adjudication of any identified conflicts of interest. Fair, reasonable, appropriate — and essential if process integrity is a priority.
I have great respect for attorney Ira Bloom’s experience and capability. However the town attorney’s response to attorney Weisman — i.e., to essentially reiterate the course of events while ignoring the improprieties that attorney Weisman’s correctly articulated — was as anemic as it was predictable; after all, the charter states that he’s paid to defend the first selectwoman. His reply was just that.
However, what attorney Bloom doesn’t seem to understand (or continues to ignore for obvious reasons) is that the appointment of the LLSBC committee NEEDED TO BE INITIATED BY THE RTM (not the first selectwoman) and A COGENT REASON TO BYPASS THE PSBC MUST BE ARTICULATED by the RTM when so doing. Neither occurred in this instance. It was Jen Tooker who initiated this, not the RTM. No rationale necessitating the bypass of the PSBC was asserted. Mr. Bloom cannot deny this.
In addition, it was also Jen Tooker (not the RTM) who initiated the composition of the LLSBC by providing the RTM with her “recommendations” rather than it being the RTM itself formulating this LLSBC independent of the FS. Are we to conclude that the RTM is incapable of formulating a building committee when it decides that it’s necessary to bypass the already existing expert Pubic Site and Building Commission — or that they are simply too lazy to do so?
And, unlike in the past, there was zero opportunity for appropriate pertinent members of the public to volunteer to be seated on the LLSBC.
Furthermore, there are members seated on the LLSBC who, by virtue of their elected positions, are not permitted to be seated on any board or commission.
Identifying the LLSBC as a “Committee” instead of a “Commission” (as is Westport’s Public Site and Building COMMISSION) seems to be legal trickery designed to bypass Town Charter prohibitions, regardless of whether this was also done in the past. It’s simply not kosher, especially when there are ample other local experts who could serve without conflict and the Public Site and Building Commission is the organization already empowered by the Westport charter for this express purpose.
The fact that this was premeditated and completely unnecessary percolates the stench.
And the fact that the first selectwoman had never even bothered to articulate to the RTM (OR ANYONE) a cogent rationale for her intentional bypass of the PSBC increases the stench exponentially.
As attorney Weisman asserts, the RTM should immediately do something about this. Asking our representatives to do what they were elected to do, adhering to our charter and honoring precedent, should not be an unreasonable request. The RTM should take attorney Weisman’s entreaty to heart.
And, setting aside any inherent interest conflict, attorney Bloom should be in agreement with that.
On behalf of Westport’s electorate, I thank attorney Weisman for his persistent involvement, dedication to procedural propriety, and willingness to speak the truth.
Jay Walshon, MD FACEP