Sunday, June 13, 2010

Windsor wetlands agency seeks removal of fellow member

The Windsor wetlands agency is seeking the town council's removal of wetlands agency member Robert Fromer. According to an article in the Hartford Courant, the agency voted 4-1 (with Fromer dissenting) to request the town council action. In a letter to the town council the wetlands agency chairperson, Linnea Gilbert, characterized Fromer's behavior as "unprofessional and antagonistic" and seeks his removal due to his "antagonistic, condescending and unprofessional behavior and comments to applicants, fellow commissioners and town staff." Fromer is halfway through his 4 year term as an agency member. On June 7, 2010 the Windsor town council unanimously adopted a "resolution of intent" to remove Fromer from his post. As an interim measure, the council resolution suspends him pending the charter-mandated public hearing, which must be held within 30 days of June 7th.

Robert Fromer is a well-known plaintiff for appeals and suits brought when he lived in southeastern Connecticut.

It's been quite some time since the courts have looked at removal of a wetlands agency member. Thirty years ago the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld a trial ruling ordering the Board of Selectmen in Brookfield to reinstate Barbara Obeda to the wetlands agency after she was removed by the Board "for cause." In Obeda v. Board of Selectmen, 180 Conn. 521 (1980), based on the facts in that case, the state Supreme Court set the bar high for proving cause. Looking at the five grounds the town relied on, the Supreme Court dispensed with each of them: refusal to disqualify herself, discourtesy to other agency members, personality clash with other agency members, her attempt to secure the resignation of a senior agency member, her belief that the town engineer lacked expertise.

I've thought the Obeda case was a signal that towns and agencies shouldn't come running to the courts when members don't get along optimally. In Windsor, it is alleged that the town is having difficulty filling vacancies due to Fromer's conduct; two positions and two alternate positions are unfilled. It remains to be seen what facts will be put forth in the case for removal and for Fromer's defense.

Is there a point when rudeness and inability to get along are sufficient bases for removal "for cause"? Stay tuned.

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