Town attorney Eileen Duggan told the Town Council Monday that in her opinion, an employee of the Montville school department or Board of Education can serve as a Town Councilor, but she also held that it would be a conflict for that person to vote on education budgets.
The issue came up at Town councilor Laura Tanner abstained from voting; she is employed by the schools as a paraprofessional. A number of residents at that meeting chortled when Tanner recused herself and one questioned her position as a town councilor.
In a press release sent to Patch last week, Jim Andriote Sr., chair of Independence for Montville, called for Tanner to “resign immediately.” He said that the town charter prohibits town employees from being town councilors: “Except where authorized by law or otherwise specifically required by this Charter, no Councilor shall hold any other Town office or Town employment during the term for which he was elected to the Town Council…”
But Duggan said that despite provisions of the charter, state statute supersedes that law and, she said, specifically allows a board of education employee to serve “without conflict.”
Andriote charges that, “At no point, following the election did Councilor Tanner indicate she was still employed by the Board of Education until the previous mentioned meeting. “
“Based on the above information, Ms. Tanner should resign immediately. Additionally, any votes that she has participated in should be struck from the record,” he said.
Duggan did say that while a town employee can serve, s/he cannot vote. Duggan said that a councilor who also happens to be employed by the school department may not vote on a budget.
“In my opinion, there did exist a conflict,” Duggan said.
In related school money matters
Councilor Gary Murphy, liaison to the BOE said he was told that the schools had a larger amount budgeted for “power, electricity and fuel, so they found some money, savings” which means, he said, that layoffs have been further reduced to 2.5.
Duggan also told the council that in her opinion, a petition to call for a change to the mill rate is not allowed.
Councilor Dana McFee said there’s a petition circulating that could see the budget go to referendum.