Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Riverfront Zoning Text Amendment on P&Z Agenda Tonight

Tonight the Planning & Zoning Commission meets at 7 pm April 8th in the Council Chambers to hold a public hearing and vote on a floating zone text amendment for zoning of parcels near the riverfront. A copy of the agenda and proposed text amendment is available on the city website here:
http://middletownplanning.com/

Friday, April 03, 2015

Middletown GOP Chair to Mayor Drew: Obey the Law Fill Committee Seats

It isn't for lack of willing citizens that's behind unfilled city committees.  Local Middletown Republican Town Committee Chairman Ken McClellan recently sent a letter to Mayor Dan Drew and copied to media outlining the mayor's lack of attention to state statute in filling empty committee seats in a timely manner and with legally required balances of majority and minority political party representation. McClellan states he tried to work with the Mayor's aide Joe Samolis and City Treasurer Quentin Phipps to get the matter resolved on several occasions. to with no results. McClellan also describes instances where individuals were encouraged to change political parties to fill seats. These instances, McClellan points out, Mayor Drew acted immediately to put that individual on a committee.  (That's some dirty sh*t.) As McClellan points out, this puts any decisions by committees in violation in jeopardy of not being legal; and lawsuits for the city costs us the taxpayers money! Didn't Drew campaign on ending lawsuits?

 McClellan does the job that the Council Clerk ought to be doing outlining which committees are in violation.  Marie Norwood, Council Clerk, a position that was upgraded to over $90K a year in salary, is on the Technology Committee and in charge of keeping council meeting minutes & therefore up to date records of committee appointments as made by the Mayor and approved by the Common Council. These should be made available on the city's website. The City website operates on circular logic with no conclusions. The city site has links to committee lists under the "Community Involvement", however; no lists are attached, only outdated meeting minutes for some of the committees.

What's with all the sloppy practices?  As mayor, Drew also set forth an official rule that all committees were to meet after 7 pm so that members of the working public could better attend. Many committees, such as Design Review & Historic Preservation (DRHP) meet much earlier in the day violating the decree. Harbor Review hasn't met in months, despite recent attention to riverfront redevelopment. Redevelopment Agency & the Riverfront Redevelopment Committee have taken several months of hiatus for unknown reasons, much to the disadvantage of the public. Here is a link to the yearly meeting schedule of the Riverfront Comm. which basically says it will meet when "needed" which from the looks of it means never. DRHP and others are permitted to operate outside of Robert's rules, issue rulings without legal quorums, and don't keep accurate meeting minutes. Speaking of representation, Mayor Drew often names committees "task forces" to attempt to thwart the state statutes of minority representation- 'ala the Task Force on Government Efficiency. Try getting meeting minutes, schedules or agenda's from the City's website and one will find many committee's minutes are several YEARS out of date.  Despite the progress to decommission the City sewage plant and allow new development of the riverfront, the Riverfront Comm., according to the city website last met in May 2014- almost a year ago. As McClellan points out, the last minutes for Redevelopment Agency are from 2011! Who knows what meets when or what goes on! 

Unfortunately this thwarting of the law is nothing new.  McClellan has been attempting since 2013 to get accurate committee lists directly from city hall and he hasn't been the only one . Also, in a 2013 via an official FOI request filed with the Town Clerk MRTC Vice Chair William Wilson tried to obtain list of vacant committee seats & active members from Norwood whom indicated to Wilson the lists of committee members could not be provided because they "did not exist." Wilson's FOI letter can be read here.

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Middletown Republican Town Committee

PO Box 1121

Middletown, CT 06457

March 30, 2015

Mayor Daniel Drew

City of Middletown

245 DeKoven Drive

Middletown, CT 06457

Subject:  Board and Commission Appointments

Many appointed commissions are out of date or out of balance without the representation required by the state statute.
This non-compliance means that some commissions are not properly constituted, and opens any decisions rendered by those commission to challenges.  In the case of Inland Wetland Commission, whose decisions have a financial impact on home owners, businesses and developers, it opens the possibility of lawsuits challenging decisions.

Since February of 2013, I have tried repeatedly to get a current list of appointments, and to work with Mayor Drew to ensure that all boards and commissions are properly and fully staffed.  Mayor Drew, on various occasions you asked me to work with Joe Samolis and the City Treasurer, Quentin Phipps, to bring the list up to date, and to receive recommendations on minority party appointments.  Neither has responded to my requests for information, and the mayor has acted extremely slowly on the recommendations that I have made.  You did, however, act quickly when an individual, after a lifetime as a registered Democrat, changed party affiliation to Independent, and was appointed to a minority seat on a commission within 2 weeks.  While possibly legal to appoint someone that quickly after a change in party affiliation, it definitely violates the spirit of minority party representation required by the state statute.

The ‘current’ appointment list published by the city does not match the member lists published for various commissions or the city website.  Neither list matches the members listed in Meeting Minutes published by the various committees.  So it is not possible to know who the members are, what political party they represent, or what actual vacancies exist, in order to make nominations to fill those vacancies.  It makes it difficult to determine if the individuals attending meetings and voting on issues were properly appointed.

The Inland Wetland is an example.  The current composition of the commission, according to the city website, is:

Joe Carta  (Dem)
Robert E. Whitney Jr.  (Dem)
Hector Bartoli (Dem)
Fred J. Terrasi (Rep)
Trevor H. Davis Jr. (Dem)
David Pritchard (Dem)  (Listed as Republican on official appointment list.)
Daniel Paul Pelletier (Rep)
Paul Henry Turenne (Dem)
Member – Vacant
Member – Vacant
Alternate – Jack Pieper (Dem)
Alternate – Gabriel Russo (Dem)
Alternate – Vacant
Alternate – Vacant
Alternate – Vacant

David Pritchard is listed as a Republican on the list of members, however, the David Pritchard on the committee is a registered Democrat.  His son, of the same name and address is registered as a Republican.  If this is a mistake on the part of the Mayor, it is certainly a careless error.  The result of this error is that, with two vacant seats, and both Alternates being Democrats, the commission has a de facto 8 to 2 membership, even though the state statute requires 1/3 membership be non-majority party, which would be 4 members.  As such, this commission is currently not legally constituted under the state statute, and any decisions rendered are subject to challenge.  

Redevelopment Agency:   Joseph Tine is currently listed as a member, on the city web-site, although he passed away last year.  The most recent published minutes available on the website for the Redevelopment Agency are from May 2011.

Conservation Commission
The member list in the meeting minutes do not match the members listed on the city website, and does not match the report I received from the council clerk.

Website Members
March 15 Meeting Minute Members
Kate Miller(Chair) (D)
Sheila Stoane(Vice-Chair) (U, Former D)
Liv Baker
Jane Brawerman (D)
Ellen Lukens (I)
Steven Ladd (D)
Lee Sawyer
Jonathan Morris
Joan Liska (I)
Diane McGrath
Vacancy
David O'Brien (alternate) (D)
Vacancy(alternate)
Vacancy (alternate)
Chairperson Kate Miller (19)
Vice-Chair  Jonathan Morris (17)
Shelia Stoane (16)
Diane McGrath (17)
Steven Ladd (16)
Jane Brawerman (19)
Joan Liska (20)
Lee Sawyer(17)
Liv Baker (16)
Eric Mosher (15)
Ellen Lukens (17)
Alternate: Michael Singer (16)
Alternate: David O’Brien (19)
Alternate: Vacancy (16)

Eric Mosher is listed as a member whose term expires this year, but he’s not listed on the website member list.  Michael Singer is listed in the minutes as attending meetings, but is not listed in the City website as an appointed member.  Are these two legally  members or not?

In addition, Shelia Stoane was registered as a Democrat until shortly before she was appointed to a ‘minority’ seat on the Conservation Commission.  She changed her party affiliation to Independent and was quickly appointed to the Conservation Commission by Mayor Drew.  I also understand that she spoke to Mayor Drew about an appointment before changing her party affiliation.   Her appointment violates the spirit of the minority representation provision in the state statute.  Several Republicans have requested and have been recommended for appointments to the Conservation Commission, all of which have been ignored.   The current composition of the commission may be technically legal, but  could be open to challenge in court.

Citizen’s Advisory Committee
Website Members
March 15 Meeting Minute Members
Deborah Kleckowski (Common Council Seat)
Grady Faulkner (Common Council Seat)
John Rumberger (Middletown Housing Authority Seat)
Vincent Szynkowicz (Planning and Zoning Commission Seat)
Robert Blanchard (At-Large Seat)
Linda Szynkowicz (At-Large Seat)
Ronnie Bantum (Low/Moderate Income Seat)
Harvey Cushing (Elderly Seat)
Richard Pelletier (Disabled Seat)
Sean King (Westfield Seat- Census Tract 5412, 5413, 5414)
Jessica Broderick (Westfield Seat- Census Tract 5412, 5413, 5414)
Pat Murray (Downtown Seat- Census Tract 5411, 5415, 5416, 5417)
Karlene Duplessis (Downtown Seat- Census Tract 5411, 5415, 5416, 5417)
Howard Reid (South Farms Seat -Census Tracts 5418, 5419, 5420, 5421, 5422)
Susan Owens (South Farms Seat- Census Tract 5418, 5419, 5420, 5421, 5422)
D Kleckowski
G Faulkner
R Rumberger
V Szynkowicz
R Blanchard
L Szynkowicz
R Bantum
H Cushing
R. Pelletier
S King
J Broderick

K Duplesis
H Reid
S Owens

Pat Murray is listed as a member on the city website, but are not listed in the meeting minutes, either as present or absent.  Is this a valid vacancy or an oversight?  Party affiliation is also not available, making it impossible to determine if the commission is properly constituted.

The examples above are not the full scope of the issues with appointments to boards and commissions.  There are other problems, both with vacancies and non-compliance with party affiliation requirements.  As I said earlier, I, as Chairman of the Republican Town Committee have tried to work with Mayor Drew, and at his request, with his designated representatives, with no positive results, which has prompted me to write this letter.  

But the real danger of not filling the commission seats properly, in accordance with state statute, and by not complying with minority representation, as required by the state statute, is the liability to which the city is exposed.  If the commission is out of compliance, that brings all of its actions into question, and an aggrieved party could cite this as a basis for appeal and potentially, a lawsuit.  And lawsuits, as the Mayor has told us, are not good for the City of Middletown

I would like to continue to work with you and your staff to correct these discrepancies, and would appreciate your response.

  
Kenneth A. McClellan
Chairman
Middletown Republican Town Committee

Suzio: Good News About Fight to End Early Release!

From the Office Len Suzio State Victims' Advocate:

A few days ago I wrote to inform you that no public hearings on Early Release were scheduled for this Legislative Session.
Apparently so many of you responded to the news and contacted legislators that the Judiciary Committee has now scheduled a public hearing on Raised Committee Bill SB 1129
SB 1129 AN ACT ESTABLISHING A PILOT PROGRAM TO IDENTIFY AND TRACK THE HOMELESS, ADDICTED OR MENTALLY ILL PERSONS ENTERING THE JUSTICE SYSTEM AND CONCERNING THE EARNED RISK REDUCTION CREDIT PROGRAM.
How would  the proposed legislation affect the Early Release Law?
The proposed legislation will not repeal the infamous Early Release law, but it would reduce the number of criminals who would be eligible for early release by expanding the crimes that disqualify a criminal from eligibility to get a reduced sentence under the program.
Currently criminals guilty of only 6 crimes are not eligible to receive Early Release credits:
  • Murder
  • Capital Felony
  • Felony Murder
  • Arson Murder
  • Manslaughter First Degree
  • Manslaughter with a Firearm
The proposed changes would add the following crimes to the ineligible list for RREC's:
  • Assault on a pregnant woman resulting in termination of pregnancy
  • First Degree Sexual Assault 
  • Aggravated Sexual assault of a victim under 13 years old
  • Class A Felony Home Invasion
  • Persistent Dangerous Felony Offender or Persistent Dangerous Sexual Offender
The very fact that persistent dangerous sexual offenders, a crime with a high rate of recidivism, are currently eligible for Early Release underscores how dangerous the current law is!
The proposed disqualifying crimes for eligibility for Early Release fall far short of crimes should be ineligible for getting out of prison early, but it is a small step in the right direction.
The hearing is scheduled to start at 10:30 am in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building. If you can come and testify it would be great. But if you can't come, please send letters that you support the proposed changes - and keep the pressure up on the Legislature!! 
Call or write your State Rep and State Senator to support passage of this bill. Massive public pressure is the only hope for passage of this badly needed reform.

Please share with us any responses that you get for your State Rep or State Senator so we know where all legislators stand on this issue and let me know if you plan to go to the Hearing on Wednesday.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

South Fire District Annual Charity Flower Sale

A Message from South Fire: Our annual Easter Flower sale starts Thursday April 2 at the firehouse on Randolph rd. The funds we raise help support local organizations like, Amazing Grace Food Pantry, Middletown Little League, Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center, and the Adopt-A-Family program. We will be there from 8am till 7pm Thursday through Saturday, hope to see you then!

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