BEACON FALLS — Officials are reviewing proposals for new ordinances submitted by a resident, including one that would prevent someone from running or holding an elected office if the person owes back taxes.
The proposals, which were submitted by resident Shawn Styfco, would require a candidate for an elected office or an appointed commission and anyone who receives a stipend from the town to be current on their taxes. The proposal also states that an official who is more than 15 days delinquent on their taxes can’t serve. If the official is more than 30 days late, the person would be removed from office and ineligible to run for re-election or a role with a stipend for two years.
Two other proposals would prevent an individual from serving on more than one board or commission, and town employees from serving on any board or commission.
Selectman Christopher Bielik wasn’t in support of the proposals.
“I’m absolutely not in favor of almost anything that is written on here,” Bielik said during the Board of Selectmen’s Feb. 10 meeting. “I think that it’s actually an attempt to infringe upon the democratic process that everybody in this nation is allowed to participate in.”
First Selectman Gerard Smith didn’t disagree with Bielik, but said it’s the public’s right to present ideas they think are needed. Smith said the proposals might not even be legal.
The board agreed to look over the proposals before sending them to the town attorney for legal review. The board also referred the procedure to introduce a new ordinance to the town attorney to clarify what the board’s responsibility is in the process.
In an email response to questions, Douglas Spencer, a law and public policy professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, said at first blush the proposed ordinance regarding back taxes seems like it would be legally enforceable.
He said the U.S. Constitution identifies eligibility requirements for federal offices, such a presidential candidate must be 35 years old, a natural-born citizen and have at least 14 years of residency in the United States.
The Supreme Court has interpreted this provision as the minimum and maximum eligibility requirements, he said. Thus, he added, it would not be legal to require presidential candidates to be current on their taxes.
However, state and local offices are not regulated by the U.S. Constitution, he said, and he doesn’t see anything in the state constitution that would limit a town from creating its own eligibility requirements.
“Thus, towns are relatively free to add any kind of eligibility requirements for office. They may not do so in ways that violate the state or federal constitution,” he said.