Controversy arises: Will Savin or Elgin be appointed Westport’s third selectman?

WESTPORT — Controversy has erupted over who the third selectman should be after Democratic First Selectman candidate Jonathan Steinberg declined to take the seat following the election.

Libertarian First Selectman candidate, TJ Elgin, believes he is the rightful candidate to take the seat. The Democratic Town Committee believes that as the defeated party with the next highest number of votes, they get to fill the spot.

Their choice is Candice Savin, who ran alongside Steinberg. She and Steinberg received 4,168 votes, while Elgin and his running mate, Louis D’Onofrio, Jr., received 64 votes, according to results posted on the Secretary of the State’s website.

First Selectwoman-elect Jennifer Tooker said the decision will be made after she is sworn into office Nov. 15, but in the meantime, she will be meeting with the town attorneys to discuss the town charter and what to do in this situation.

“I am meeting with our town attorneys later this afternoon to make sure that we really understand the charter wording,” Tooker said on Monday. “The process will be decided by the charter wording and our understanding of it.”

Steinberg said that he declined the opportunity to become the third selectman in order to continue being Westport’s state representative in Hartford.

Since the announcement, Elgin said he and his legal team have reviewed the Connecticut state statue, specifically Section 9-188, which discusses the first selectman, selectmen, election procedure, dual candidacy prohibition, minority representation, restricted voting and a tie vote.

The team has also reviewed Westport’s town charter and found the following passage:

“The candidate for First Selectman having the highest number of votes shall be elected First Selectman, and the candidate for Selectman combined with the elected First Selectman on the ballot or machine shall be elected a Selectman. The defeated candidate for First Selectman having the highest number of votes shall be elected a Selectman.”

Elgin’s legal team said with their readings of these two provisions together, they believe the seat should go to Elgin, if Steinberg passes. They said Savin was a candidate for second selectman and therefore not eligible.

The team is waiting for a response from Town Hall.

“I will accept the tasks of third selectman and be very honored to work with Ms. Tooker and Ms. Moore,” Elgin said.

The Democratic Town Committee issued a statement recognizing the third selectman as a valuable member of Westport’s leadership team. They also sought to address any questions people may have had surrounding the potential appointment of the third selectman in the newly elected administration.

The DTC said that in accordance with the Town Charter, if Steinberg chooses not to accept this role, the DTC gets to recommend a candidate to the newly elected first and second selectmen for their consideration.

“Candice Savin, who ran for Second Selectman, is interested in being considered to fill the position of Third Selectman should Jonathan Steinberg choose not to accept it. Candice has expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to work with Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore for the benefit of the town. The DTC appreciates the significant contributions that Third Selectmen have made to Westport over the years and looks forward to recommending a new Democratic member to the Board of Selectmen,” the DTC statement said.

If Savin is selected, Westport’s three selectmen would all be women, for the first time in history.