Treasurer's race takes center stage - Top Story of 2011
Published 3:30 pm, Wednesday, December 28, 2011
In a rare election season where all eyes were on the treasurer's race, incumbent V. Donald Hersam, who has held the position for more than 40 years, came out on top. He defeated Democrat Kathleen Corbet, who sought more changes to the role of treasurer, 1,478 to 1,431.
"It was a very formidable race. I am an unskilled campaigner. I've generally never asked to run, I've always been asked to run and that was always fun. This was a lot different. It took a little bit of a toll on everyone I think," Hersam said. "I do have to congratulate the Democrats and Kathleen's campaign people for a very strong formidable race. I believe that many of the questions that were raised in the campaign may have a future role in the considerations as we move forward. I'm not sure which way it will go, but I was asked what I thought for the future. Did I anticipate a change? I said no at this moment but I am certainly willing to work with the new leadership and see where we go."
Despite losing, Corbet was happy with the race she ran, the people she met and the issues she brought to light.
"It was very close but it's been a great campaign. I tip my hat to Mr. Hersam and I remain a great admirer of his," Corbet said. "I was glad to race on issues concerning fiscal responsibility that were brought to light throughout the campaign. It was a lot fund and I got to know the best of New Canaan. I think all of New Canaan is a winner tonight."
It was a long road for both candidates when the role of treasurer came under scrutiny during the recent Lakeview Avenue bridge arbitration controversy. The matter stems from a conflict between the town and Loureiro Contractors concerning the Lakeview Avenue Bridge construction in 2008. The town went into arbitration after withholding $250,000 from the contractors and claiming the firm was delaying the construction project. According to documents, Loureiro Contractors claim the work was delayed due to unforeseen complications with underground utilities, overhead wires and flooding. After more than a year of arbitration, Loureiro Contractors were awarded $650,000 by arbitrators.
Town Council members were shocked to learn the arbitrator made the decision Feb. 25 and the award was paid in full March 27 without their knowledge. First Selectman Jeb Walker and Director of Public Works Michael Pastore took responsibility for what was described as a "breakdown in communication" after the payment was made.
The role of town treasurer came under fire because it was revealed the checks in town are given a "facsimile," signature by the town treasurer.
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Corbet has said the role should be given a more active approach than it has in the past to prevent such situations.
"The role of town treasurer has really been defined by tradition rather than by statute or town charter. Importantly, the Lakeview Avenue Bridge arbitration, or frankly any bill or expense of that size over $600,000, would have been a red flag to anybody, (such as) an active town treasurer, taking a look at that large of an expense," Corbet said.
Hersam said the issue with Lakeview had more to do with disagreement between certain bodies of government than the role of the town treasurer in authorizing the checks.
"Those monies had to be paid, otherwise penalties would accrue very quickly. It was done. What people haven't realized is there was a bond resolution put before the Board of Finance and passed by the Board of Finance. Town Council refused to pass that," Hersam said. "The monies had to be added to the budget to cover that shortfall. There is where the problem was. It was between the governing bodies not discussing what the circumstance was regarding the arbitration."