Jul 29, 2014
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Role of New Canaan Treasurer Dominates Debate

The candidates' views on the duties and obligations of the treasurer, and the Lakeview Bridge arbitration award, were central to Monday evening's debate at Town Hall.

Role of New Canaan Treasurer Dominates Debate Role of New Canaan Treasurer Dominates Debate Role of New Canaan Treasurer Dominates Debate Role of New Canaan Treasurer Dominates Debate Role of New Canaan Treasurer Dominates Debate

The program for the held Monday evening at , began with a , the only contested town-wide race. 

Moderator, Susan LaPerla, from , co-sponsors of the evening asked the first question: "There hasn't been a lot of focus on the role of town treasurer until recent events brought attention to the office. What's your understanding of the role of treasurer?"

Hersam: "No, there has not been a focus on the role of town treasurer for many years," he said. "As described through the Town Charter and the listings by the Council as to the duties they are very limited ... it just says there shall be a treasurer," he said.

In his answer, Hersam also said that the current discussion of the role of the treasurer arose as a result of the . In the limited time each candidate was allotted he said, "That check that was drawn was necessary."

Corbet: While praising Hersam's service to New Canaan, not just as treasurer, but also his active role in the life of the town, Corbet said she sees the duties of the treasurer differently. It's an active role," she said, "the treasurer has the responsibility to be a second set of eyes, working closely yet independently with the CFO, and overseeing, making sure that those checks are appropriately authorized."

Corbet said that the town website cites that the town treasurer position is mandated by the state. The treasurer, "is the ex-officio of the pension fund and has the responsibility for overseeing cash management accounts of anywhere from $30 to $70 million on any given day," she said.

They were next asked to state their qualifications for the office:

Corbet: Detailing, "over 25, nearly 30 years, of experience in investment, finance, technology and governance," in the private and non-profit sector, she said nonetheless that, "her proudest time is the time I've spent serving New Canaan." 

Hersam: "Those qualifications are quite astounding," he said, "I can't hold a candle to that."

"I've been in New Canaan quite a while and learned something about people," he said. "I've learned that when you see talent, you let talent do the job without interfering. I'm referring to Gary Conrad and his staff. I'm not about to change the way this town is being run."

Roy Abramovitz, asked a question from the audience, which again went to the issue of the Lakeview Avenue Bridge Arbitration. He asked the candidates if they thought this issue suggested that the Board of Finance should be an elected body, rather than appointed as it is now.

Hersam: Calling it a constructive idea, he said it would require a charter revision and declined to express his views on any charter revisions. He said, "I have some ideas about how I think the charter should go, but I'm not going to express it at the moment, it's more appropriate in the right hands first."

Corbet: In looking into the role of the town treasurer in other Fairfield County communities she said the town treasurer is always separate from the Board of Finance, and that the, "Board of Finance is typically elected. We're unusual in that we have an appointed Board of Finance, but it would be up to the electorate."

Bill Sessions asked the final question from the audience. Calling the office of treasurer, as per the charter, "basically ceremonial," he brought the conversation back to the Lakeview Bridge issue. 

"I submit that whatever went wrong, or did go wrong there, has nothing to do with the office of treasurer," he said.

Corbet: Agreeing with Sessions that what happened in the bridge arbitration had nothing to do with Hersam, Corbet said the role of treasurer has been defined by "tradition rather than by statute or charter." She said that with an active treasurer any check the size of the one written in this incident would have have raised a red flag.

Hersam: Thanking Sessions and Corbet for their comments about his role in the Lakeview Bridge issue, he said the problem was between the governing bodies. "The First Selectman, head of the Town Council, Board of Finance were all alerted to this. The Town Council was not alerted. Leadership put it off 'til May. That's where the problem came with the attitude to the members of the Council."

The evening also included statements by the town-wide candidates who are running unopposed.

(Editor's Note: Town Clerk Claudia Weber confirms that the Constables' race has eight candidates and only seven open positions.)

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