Selectmen discuss Richards’ ‘Friday night lights’ letter
Updated 10:49 pm, Sunday, April 24, 2016
DARIEN — Selectman Rob Richards got the ball moving forward on athletic field lighting, but some fellow board members don’t seem to like the way he did it.
As the April 4 meeting of the Board of Selectmen drew to a close, Richards announced he had reached an agreement with neighbors of Darien High School in regard to the lights that had long been opposed by many living near the field. The typed agreement laid out a set of terms agreed upon by Richards and the neighbors and bore 14 signatures at the bottom. The letter was, at the time, met mostly with muted surprise from his fellow selectmen.
At Monday night’s meeting, the first since Richards presented the letter, the selectmen took time to officially respond to the document, and the tactics with which Richards procured it.
Selectwoman Susan Marks read from a prepared statement.
“As an elected official, meeting and talking with constituents is a vital aspect of our job,” she said. “Negotiating a set of guidelines with a handful of neighbors about lights, in my opinion, is totally inappropriate for a member of the Board of Selectmen. Individual selectmen are not empowered to negotiate on behalf of the town, the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Ed or the Planning and Zoning Commission. Further, by presenting guidelines in writing, into the record, without awareness of the first selectman or Town Council, could introduce risk to the town for future legal and personal liability.”
Marks went on to say she is fully in support of the idea of lights, but the details should be left to the Board of Education and the Planning and Zoning Commission, a point to which Kip Koons agreed.
Marc Thorne refrained from commenting on Richards’ methods, but stated he felt the dialogue between Richards and the neighbors had a positive effect.
“I’m glad a discussion has begun on these items. I believe without being directly involved it appeared to me that things were kind of frozen. People are now talking about it, and I think that’s progress,” Thorne said.
Stevenson underscored some procedural concerns she had with the letter, citing certain parts, in particular, which she felt were “not legal, not in accordance with town regulation, not achievable because it would require going onto private property or the expending of town funds.”
Richards agreed it was best to leave the negotiations to the Board of Education. He explained he had engaged with the neighbors before the time they were scheduled to meet with Superintendent Dan Brenner, and that the neighbors felt uncomfortable sitting down with Brenner without a written acknowledgment of the terms agreed upon in discussion.
“As far as my tactics, it all was a discovery thing for me. And really trying to figure out the best way to move this forward,” Richards said.