By Selectman Maria Cruz Kayne
Until very recently, my colleagues and I on the Board of Selectmen (BOS) were repeatedly assured by the First Selectman that the Toll Brothers proposal was the only viable option for the Country Club of Woodbridge (CCW) to emerge from the Town’s search process. At the June 22, 2016 Selectmen’s Special Meeting, hastily called for the First Selectman to present Toll’s most recent proposal, I questioned why she was so focused on Toll and was not exploring other options. She responded, claiming that the Town has done what she called extensive outreach, “I have said this repeatedly to the Board. Any viable option that comes to us I will bring to the Board. There have been none…no one has come forward…So maybe there is some magical answer out there, but I don’t think it behooves us as Board of Selectmen and I would say Board of Finance members as well to wait for a magical solution to this.”
Imagine my surprise when I learned she made that statement knowing about another “viable option”. Someone had come forward. At the public meeting on July 27th, Mr. Roland Betts of Redan Reserve said that he first approached Ms. Scalettar with his idea for the CCW last November—nine months ago. How can Ms. Scalettar reconcile this fact with her statement quoted above?
The June 22 Selectmen’s Special Meeting had other irregularities. Three members of the Board of Finance (BOF) sat at the front table as if at a joint meeting of the two boards, though the meeting was not noticed as such and the BOF members were not included on the agenda. One by one, they were ready to offer comments and dutifully provided their support of the Toll proposal, claiming it was the only option.
Aside from the fact that their unannounced participation in the meeting may have violated the Freedom of Information Act (a formal complaint from a Town resident has been filed in Hartford), I found it inappropriate that the BOF members were used in this way. I also felt it was inappropriate that they and the other two democratic selectmen were told in advance that they would be asked to make individual statements on the new Toll proposal but we across the aisle were given no such warning.
At the August 1 Selectmen’s meeting, I questioned why Scalettar had not informed her fellow selectmen of the new Redan proposal before July 13th, when it was presented to us and to the public simultaneously. Her answer was that she waited until she had a formal proposal in writing. Oddly, though, Scalettar called the June 22 meeting and presented the new Toll concept without a written proposal in hand. Why the different standard for Toll?
Clearly, given Mr. Betts’ background and track record, the Redan proposal was a serious one well in advance of the receipt of the written proposal. Several times in the last nine months the First Selectman has asked the BOS for advice on how to proceed in her negotiations with Toll. We now know that we were given only partial information on which to base that advice. We have since learned that Scalettar brought a member of the appointed Board of Finance into the negotiations with Redan, but even at that point didn’t see fit to inform and seek advice from her fellow selectmen.
In response to my questions, Town Attorney Gerald Weiner quoted from our Town Charter indicating that the First Selectman is the Town’s CEO and cannot be prevented from exercising her power in this way. However that same Charter gives the full Board of Selectmen, not the Board of Finance or the First Selectman alone, the authority to recommend to the public a sale of Town property. As our Town’s elected representatives we have the responsibility to evaluate real estate proposals as a full board. If she took the Redan proposal seriously enough to bring in a BOF member, she should have informed the full Board of Selectmen and sought our advice too. Instead, she told us and the public, as quoted above, that there were no other options that no one else had come forward.
Notwithstanding the First Selectman’s relentless pursuit of Toll Brothers over the past few years, even she had to acknowledge the public’s clear preference for the Redan proposal as expressed at the public meeting on July 27th. More than 300 residents endured 90 degree heat for several hours that night, to hear the details, ask questions, and voice their support for Redan over Toll. In response to the strong public opinion expressed at that meeting, we selectmen agreed unanimously on August 1 to take Toll off the table and pursue negotiations with Redan Reserve. I look forward to collaborating with my fellow selectmen to negotiate an agreement with Redan that will meet the approval of Woodbridge voters.