Three BOE seats, not two, up for election in Beacon Falls

BEACON FALLS — Turns out that three of town’s four seats on the Region 16 Board of Education will be up for election in November.

The Region 16 Board of Education oversees public schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. Each town has four seats on the board that are elected to four-year terms. The terms are staggered so that two seats are up for election in each town every municipal election.

There was some confusion among officials as to whether the seat on the board held by Democrat Erik Dey was up for election this year. Voters chose Dey to fill a vacancy on the school board at a special town meeting shortly after the November 2017 election. The term of the seat Dey filled runs until 2021.

Beacon Falls doesn’t have a town charter and is governed by local ordinances and state statutes. The confusion stemmed from conflicting language in town ordinances and state law.

Town ordinances state that a vacancy on the school board is filled for the unexpired term by a special town meeting. Town officials took that to mean that Dey’s seat wasn’t up for election until 2021.

The Democratic and Republican town committees in July endorsed candidates for the November election without considering a third candidate for the school board. Democrats endorsed two candidates, while Republicans backed one.

Town Clerk Len Greene said officials didn’t realize at the time that the third seat was up for election.

School board members raised the question about the status of the seat, as well. Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said the board’s legal counsel looked into the issue and felt the seat needed to be on the ballot this year.

It’s an opinion Beacon Falls Town Attorney Frederick Stanek agreed with in a letter provided to First Selectman Christopher Bielik in late July.

In the letter, Stanek refers to Special Act No. 159, which is a state statute that specifically pertains to Beacon Falls elections, and section 10-46(c) of the state statutes. Both of the statutes say a vacancy on the school board is filled until the next election.

Stanek wrote the language of the special act doesn’t apply, in his opinion, to the Region 16 school board because it was approved before the town was a member of the region. Nonetheless, section 10-46(c) preempts any contrary language in a town ordinance, as does the special act, according to Stanek.

Greene said the town committees have until Sept. 9 to endorse a candidate for the seat.

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Peter Betkoski, who is also a selectman, said the committee plans to endorse Dey.

Dey said he’s running for re-election.

“I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Beacon Falls,” Dey said.

Republican Town Committee Chairman Michael Krenesky, who is also a selectman, said the committee is looking for a candidate. As of last week, he said he heard from one person interested but didn’t have a commitment from anyone to run.