Letter to the ACLU by Bethel Resident Bill Hillman, Regarding Suspension of Citizens’ Vote on Bethel Budget

Report by Paula Antolimi, May 1, 2020, 9:19PM EDT

Bill Hillman (File photo ©2018 BETHEL ADVOCATE / Paula Antolini)


The wheels are already in motion as Bethel, CT residents, and even some Bethel board members, are starting to react to the possibly questionable actions of town and state officials this year.

The citizens’ vote is being suspended in Bethel by officials using the COVID-19 quarantine situation, and CT Governor Ned Lamont’s recent Executive Orders, as reasons why officials cannot allow a “safe” vote in person or even online or mail-in. The most recent 35th Executive Order 7HH includes the “Mandatory suspension of annual town meeting or referendum to adopt budget.”

This “suspension” of the vote is occurring even though large department stores and parks have now opened and the other businesses are scheduled to open soon, as early as March 20th. The deadline for the Bethel budget Board of Finance (BOF) vote is May 15th, according to Knickerbocker.

Does there seem to be a rush to push this budget approval through? It seems that way. Citizens are possibly being denied their Constitutional rights.

First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker says the budget vote is decided by the Board of Finance, who are presently locked in a 4-person Democrat majority to likely raise taxes, the mill rate and salaries of town and school workers, as residents are out of work, businesses are closed, and families are struggling. This is not a partisan decision it is a human decision. Other towns may abide by the Executive Orders but the huge difference is they are at a zero raise in the budget. So what is happening here in Bethel?

We are seeing local petitions and letters and many comments protesting all the above. Citizens have been told that they can only give input online or write letters, but this hardly has the same power as a direct-ballot deciding vote. We have already lost the Bethel Cinema and other businesses could follow. And now lost our vote?

Bethel resident Bill Hillman has stepped forward and sent a letter to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) about the present situation in Bethel, CT, of suspending voting rights, in this case, on the town budget. He has kindly provided the letter to us for publication.

Letter is as follows:

To the CT ACLU

You claim:

“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest. The ACLU works to protect and expand Americansʼ freedom to vote.”

Yet King Ned of CT has suspended voting rights and the ACLU is silent; Taxation in CT towns without a vote https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/Office-of-the-Governor/Executive-Orders/Lamont-Executive-Orders/Executive-Order-No-7HH.pdf what can the ACLU be counted on to do?

In my town, a 4 person majority on our board of finance is about to pass a tax increase without a vote, authorized by edict from the wannabe king and dictator, his “excellency” the governor.

In the CT constitution, SEC. 7. The general assembly may provide by law for voting in the choice of any officer to be elected or upon any question to be voted on at an election by qualified voters of the state who are unable to appear at the polling place on the day of election because of absence from the city or town of which they are inhabitants or because of sickness, or physical disability or because the tenets of their religion forbid secular activity.

The law that grants powers from the legislative branch to the governor can NOT exceed what’s required by the CT constitution.

Is there anything the ACLU can do?  We have food distribution, grocery shopping, can go to CVS, we can buy beer, and on May 20th get a haircut.

Certainly VOTING is a right and essential.  If the ACLU stands for anything, this is the cause of the century.

Bill Hillman

Bethel, CT