After 2020 rejection, Shelton again looks at charter changes

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — City officials are again eyeing charter revision, two years after voters struck down a proposal that included eliminating the Board of Apportionment and Taxation and increasing party maximums for elected positions. 

The Board of Aldermen, at its meeting Thursday, voted to form a new Charter Revision Commission, with the five-person group to present a draft report no later than May 8. The last time the city attempted charter revisions was 2020, and the proposal was rejected.

The new commission will consist of Win Oppel, former alderman Joanna Carloni and Peter Finch, son of former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, all Republicans, and unaffiliated members Ruth Ann Dunford and David Presutto. 

"We expect to work on limited change and will ensure that the Charter Revision Commission has the resources to adequately explain what they recommend and why they are recommending it and that the issues to be considered are presented in separate questions,” Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Jr., said. 

“Those who oppose change should not be able to hide behind the ‘just say no’ slogan,” Anglace added. 

Residents by a more than  2-1 margin denied proposed charter changes in 2020

At the time, Mayor Mark Lauretti said the final vote “defies logic.” 

Members of political parties joined forces to oppose the charter revision proposal, forming what was then a political action group — Envision Shelton. 

“Envision Shelton got the public against the revisions,” Lauretti said in 2020. “They really misled people.” 

Envision Shelton started as a political action committee comprised of Democrats and Republicans that came together to fight the charter revision proposal on the November 2020 ballot. The group then formed into a ballot committee and ran candidates in the 2021 municipal election. 

Envision Shelton has since disbanded, but its former chair, Lorraine Rossner, now a Board of Education member, says her group is ready to re-form, depending on the final report of the new Charter Revision Committee. 

“We’re taking a wait-and-see approach,” Rossner said. “If we see a lot of the same proposals as last time, I’m sure some remnant of Envision Shelton will reactivate.” 

Lauretti said he plans to be “more aggressive” in explaining any proposed charter revisions this time. He said he would expect more public forums and direct mailings to help educate the public on any revisions prior to the November vote. 

Lauretti said the Board of A&T has long been “useless” and not a true financial check, so its elimination remains on the table. He said he also supports increasing the party maximums, specifically with the Board of Education, with the charter now requiring four minority party members. 

Elimination of the Board of Apportionment and Taxation would transfer all financial responsibilities to the aldermen, the city’s fiscal authority. 

“The charge then was that the revisions would shut the minority party out of education decisions,” Lauretti said. “But for the past 15 elections, voters have overwhelmingly chosen one party for the Board of Education.” 

Lauretti noted that Republicans have dominated at the voting booth in all races, specifically Board of Education, where more than the required five candidates topped all Democratic candidates in the final tally. 

“The public has decided, but the charter does not reflect that decision,” Lauretti said. 

The previous commission had recommended increased majority party maximums, highlighted with a Board of Education shift from a 5 to 4 split to a potential 6 to 3. The Planning and Zoning Commission would also be expanded from six to seven members.