As the chief executive of the town, Herbst needs to be held accountable.
“This smells like an abuse of power, and it is in no way surprising. Tim Herbst has a long history of using his office for political gain as he tries to advance his career. Trumbull residents deserve, at the very least, to know that their hard-earned tax dollars are not used to fight petty political battles. Tim Herbst is clearly not fit to lead.”
By John Burgeson
Published 12:00 am, Sunday, October 11, 2015
TRUMBULL — Republicans in town are charging that Thomas Kelly, the chairman of the Board of Finance*, no longer lives in town and has moved to Stratford’s Lordship section, a charge that Kelly has denied.
On Tuesday, William Holden, the Trumbull Republican registrars of voters and the chairman of the Republican Town Committee, filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission charging that Kelly may no longer be a Trumbull resident and should not be an elected official in town.
The donnybrook revolves around Kelly’s mortgage with People’s United Bank for the home in the Lordship section of Stratford, which he purchased on Feb. 26, 2015, for $311,000.
One of the conditions of that mortgage has to do with occupancy. It states: “Borrower shall occupy, establish and use the property as (the) borrower’s principal residence within 60 days after the execution of this security instrument …”
First Selectman Tim Herbst, a Republican, said that Kelly is either guilty of mortgage fraud or elections fraud.
But Kelly maintains that Holden and the other GOP cronies in town trying to create an issue where there is none. Kelly is also chairman of theDemocratic Town Committee.
“There are six or seven SEEC rulings that have to do with residency, and I’m confident that they will rule in my favor,” Kelly said. “Mr. Herbst would like nothing better than to appoint my successor.”
Kelly said that he “made it clear” to People’s United bank that he only intended for the home to be used as a summer residence. He added that he has “written permission” from People’s United to use the Lordship home as a vacation home.
The $64 question for Trumbull is: How binding is the boilerplate on your mortgage deed? Lawyers say that although it’s language that appears on just about every mortgage granted from sea to shining sea, it still carries a lot of heft.
“It’s absolutely binding,” said Atty. Toby Griffis of New London, who specializes in property law. “If you go to a lender, the interest rate is a quarter of a percent less if it’s your primary home. It’s better security for the bank.”
Atty. James Ryan of Southbury agreed. “It’s binding enough, because it’s one of the covenants of the mortgage, and if you violate it, the loan can be called in by the lender.”
Sprouting like crabgrass
All of this is happening in the eye of campaign season in Trumbull, where candidates’ signs have sprouted like crabgrass on front lawns all over town. Kelly himself isn’t up for re-election for another two years, however. At the top of the Democratic ticket is first selectmen candidate Vici Tesoro, who said that Herbst is out-of-line.
“”This is absolutely outrageous,” she said. “I’m frankly amazed that Tim Herbst hired a private investigator to scour through mortgage records and peep into people’s windows at night. The fact that he spent our tax dollars on it is bad enough, but does he really think this is acceptable behavior?”
But Herbst said that he didn‘t hire the P.I.
“That didn’t come from my office,” he said. “This is a matter for the registrars of voters office, so it came from them.”
The SEEC complaint confirms this; the P.I. is mentioned in the SEEC complaint filed by Holden.
And Herbst told the Post that Tesoro has dirty hands, too, because she’s aware of Kelly’s home in Lordship.
“Mr. Kelly is one of her (Tesoro’s) closest confidants and advisers,” Herbst said. “I find it very hard to believe that no one knew of this residency change within the rank and file of their party.”
Born and raised
Kelly insists that the boilerplate in his mortgage notwithstanding, he’s still a rock-ribbed resident of Trumbull.
“I was born and raised here,” he said. “Grew up just a few blocks from my house. And the house is not for sale or rent, my furniture is still there, the lawn is mowed,” he said. “My Trumbull home is not for rent, and we have no intention of selling it.”
Has Kelly been spending more time in Trumbull or Stratford? That’s a question for Argus, the 100-eyed creature of Greek mythology. Kelly’s across-the-street neighbor, who’s a big Herbst supporter, said that he hasn’t noticed anything amiss at the Kelly home on Plumb Road. But others have said that the house on Plumb Road, a gray colonial with black shutters, has been dark at night.
Some town officials, speaking under the condition of anonymity, said that they have “incontrovertible evidence” that Kelly has moved out-of-town.
Kelly is not up for re-election this time around. He was elected in the November 2013 election to a four-year term which ends on Dec. 4, 2017, according to the town’s clerk’s office.
*CT DEMS’ NOTE: The article inaccurately calls Thomas Kelly the chairman of the Board of Finance. While he serves as a member of the Board, he is not the chair. Kelly does, however, serve as chairman of the Democratic Town Committee.