Nov 16, 2023 5:19 PM • Last Updated: Nov 16, 2023 5:19 PM
STONINGTON — A candidate who won election to the Board of Finance in 2020 despite criticism for his social media posts about police will not be seated after a review of state law and the town charter.
Despite receiving 353 more votes than the closest Republican candidate, David Brown, Democrat Farrah Garland, who was accused of anti-police bias, cannot be seated on the board due to minority party representation rules in the town charter.
According to the charter, which conforms to state law, Brown, who received 2,698 votes to Garland’s 3,051, should have been seated in Garland’s place.
The purpose of minority party representation is to allow minority parties to have a say in municipal government by limiting the number of members of the same party who can serve on a town board or commission.
In a seven-member body like the Finance Board, the charter limits membership to five members of the same party. Garland’s victory would mean that six of the board’s members would be Democrats, and due to requirements, Brown, the highest vote-getter among Republican candidates, would take the seat.
The state law on minority party representation was initially passed in 1959. At the time, the debate was the only support for the idea that representation was necessary and functioned as a watch-dog, providing a check on the majority party.
Case law at the state and federal levels has upheld the law, which has been challenged on a number of grounds, including violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. State courts also found the law constitutional, saying it provided proportional representation and gave minority parties representation.
In response to November 6, Republican Town Committee Chairman Glenn Frishman, Town Clerk Sally Dupliss contacted the Secretary of State’s office for guidance on Frishman’s claim that current Finance Board member Chris Johnson, an independent, is a Democrat for purposes of Is counted as. Representation of minority party.
Frishman argued that because Johnson was endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee for his seat in 2021 and he only appeared on the ballot as the Democratic candidate, when it came to electing three new members according to the town charter He was clearly a Democrat.
According to emails provided by Duplass, Mark Severance, an elections official in the Secretary of State’s office, wrote on November 7 that staff attorneys agreed with Frishman’s claim that Johnson should have counted as a Democrat regardless of his party affiliation. That, and the minority party representation requirements, would mean that only two of the three available seats on the Finance Board could go to Democrats.
According to a November 9 email, Town Attorney Jeffrey Londrigan agreed that Johnson was considered a Democrat for the purpose of ensuring minority representation.
In addition to Johnson, other Democratic members of the board include Chairman Timothy O’Brien, Bob Stachen, Deborah Norman, who won re-election to her seat, and newly elected member William Sternberg.
Incumbent members Lynn Young and newly elected Brown represent the minority party on the board.
Young was endorsed by both the Republican and Democratic town committees in 2021 and has appeared as a candidate for both parties. Young is considered unaffiliated for purposes of determining minority party representation because state statute refers only to “solely-supported” candidates like Johnson.