Prospect voters reject Charter revisions

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PROSPECT — Voters in town spoke loud and clear on Tuesday — they want things to stay the same.

All five Charter revision questions on the ballot were overwhelmingly rejected at the polls.

“There were things in there that I believe were going to be a detriment to the town,” said Mayor Robert Chatfield, who openly opposed each question and urged voters to reject them.

The Town Council convened a Charter Revision Commission in the fall to review the town Charter and recommend possible changes. It marked the first time Prospect formed such a commission since 2000.

The commission, officials and the public debated potential Charter changes for months before the commission submitted its final recommendations to the council. Ultimately, the council approved the five questions that appeared on the ballot, though not every member agreed with all the suggested changes.

The most controversial proposed revision was making the town clerk, town treasurer and tax collector appointed rather than elected positions.

Other proposed changes would have changed financial procedures in town, including allowing the council to reduce the operating budget after its adoption granted certain criteria was met.

Language would have been added stating that anyone appointed or hired to a compensated position in town doesn’t have to be a resident. Currently, the Charter states they have to be residents, but several town employees live out of town. It was unclear Tuesday whether not changing the language will impact them.

The revisions also would have added personal interests, in addition to financial interests, to the definition of conflict of interest. A host of other changes, including areas where the council would be given the power to approve appointments made by the mayor, were also up for a vote.

As Election Day approached, the opposition to the changes grew louder.

“I didn’t think it was best for the town and I came out and opposed them, and now we’ll move on,” Chatfield said.

Those on the commission argued throughout the process that the changes were for the long-term benefit of the town and necessary as Prospect continues to grow.

When reached Tuesday night, Glenn Gruber, who chaired the Charter Revision Commission, had no comment.

Town Council Chairman Tom Galvin, who served on the commission, said he’s always focused on “being for something.”

“So being told to ‘Vote No’ on everything just doesn’t sit well with me,” he said.

Galvin called some of the changes, like expanding the definition of conflict of interest, a “no-brainer.”

“At a time when towns large and small across Connecticut have had issues with their accounting procedures, why would anyone advise against improving our town’s financial controls? I think it was Ronald Reagan who coined the phrase ‘Trust, but verify.’ I’m a big believer in open and transparent government, and I’ll always support those objectives, regardless of who speaks against them,” Galvin said.

Prospect voters rejected all five Charter revision questions on the ballot on Tuesday. The figures below denote unofficial counts:

1 Shall the Charter amendments providing that the Tax Collector, Town Clerk and Town Treasurer be appointed by the Mayor for 4-year terms, with majority vote by the Town Council, in place of the current provisions providing that those positions are elected for 2-year terms, be approved?

Yes 1,145; No 3,444

2 Shall the Charter amendments revising certain financial, audit, budget, and expenditure procedures, as set forth in Chapter 8 of the Amended Charter on file in the Prospect Town Clerk’s Office, be approved?

Yes 1,561; No 3,263

3 Shall the Charter amendments providing that the Town of Prospect may hire employees or appoint officers for Town positions without a requirement that they be resident electors of Prospect be approved?

Yes 1,112; No 3,945

4 Shall the Charter amendments revising the definition of conflict of interest to include personal interests, in addition to financial interests, be approved?

Yes 2,011; No 2,884

5 Shall all other changes contained in the Amended Charter on file in the Prospect Town Clerk’s Office be approved?

Yes 1,362; No 3,420

1 COMMENT

  1. I am curious if question #1 was to proposed to either change the term of elected office to 4-years or make the positions “Hired” not appointed, would this have been supported? Beacon Falls has had the same thoughts of changing the Town Clerk and Tax Collector from elected to hired positions.