Darien gearing up for shuffle referendum vote
Updated 1:02 pm, Thursday, November 17, 2011
After petitions were circulated throughout town against the shuffle project, the town clerk's office said enough signatures had been verified to force a referendum.
More than 900 signatures were submitted to the office last Friday, but officials said they're still vetting signatures and did not have the final number as of Thursday morning.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said the town clerk is currently in the process of going through each petition to make sure the signatures are legitimate. Since enough signatures were obtained, the Board of Selectmen is now required to schedule a special elector's meeting.
Last week, Stevenson said the BOS may wait until its Nov. 28 meeting, or hold a special meeting, which was Stevenson's preference.
Kathy Finnegan, is one of the organizers of the grass-roots movement to overturn the shuffle funding decision.
"At this point the people involved are waiting to hear back from the Town Clerk and they are working on regrouping and planning the next steps."
Finnegan said there weren't any concerns about enough legitimate signatures being obtained because she had helped verify about 600 of the signatures before they were submitted.
One of the next steps for the group is to register to become a political committee which requires the group to file a SEEC Form 3. Under state election laws, any group that is "organized to receive and expend funds for political campaign purposes are required to form a political committee. The chairperson of each political committee is required to file SEEC Form 3, entitled `Political Committee (PAC) Registration,' signed by the chairperson, treasurer and deputy treasurer, with the proper filing authority within ten days after the date that it is organized, which includes the date that funds or other resources are first solicited, received or expended," the rules state.
"This effort is not part of the Darien Town Committee or Lundeen's campaign; it's the people. There are people meeting in living rooms," Finnegan said.
Until a date a is set for the vote and an official committee group is formed, Finnegan said there are no plans to engage in any fundraising activities.
"There are no plans for fundraising at the moment. People have offered to give us money, not huge sums, but we had to refuse it for now because we aren't allowed to accept any money."
In order to pass the referendum, 3,100 residents would have to vote "no."
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, who was sworn in Saturday morning, said she was disappointed that residents were seeking a referendum but said she supported their right to do so.
"They absolutely have the right and I don't begrudge anyone doing it," she said recently. "I am disappointed because a great deal of scrutiny was done on the project and the votes from the public boards showed that people approve of this."
Stevenson was especially appreciative of the fact that a record number of RTM members attended the special meeting to vote on the funding for the shuffle project. If enough signatures are gathered to hold a referendum vote, Stevenson said there would be a cost associated with the referendum which would have to be covered by the town.
"... Running a referendum is a lot like running a campaign. Money will be raised and spent and it will probably be about a month before a vote takes place," she said.
For Darien, the cost of a referendum usually runs about $25,000 because the town will have to open all of the polling locations in the districts, Stevenson said.
"This is not an easy or cheap process, but it is a process," she said.