Municipal Governance

The Town of East Haddam operates by the Town Meeting-Selectmen form of local government.

Town Meeting is a form of local government for residents of the town to gather and act as a legislative body voting on issues that direct the community's operation.

Some say Town Meeting is the "purest form of democracy," because citizens, not their representatives, participate directly in the making of their laws and the raising and spending of their taxes. Since colonial times, the Town Meeting has been the basic form of local government in New England.

The Board of Selectmen functions as the executive arm administering, enforcing, and carrying out the decisions made by the Town Meeting. East Haddam’s First Selectman is elected to a full-time, two-year position, while the other two members of the board serve part-time. The Board of Selectmen is authorized to call a Town Meeting. The agenda or “call of the meeting” must be publicized 5-7 days in advance of the meeting.

All registered voters residing in the Town of East Haddam, and all persons owning at least $1,000 of taxable property, are eligible to participate in and vote at Town Meetings.  The Board of Selectmen set the agenda for a Town Meeting. Town Meetings can also be called responsive to petition.

A moderator is chosen at each meeting. The moderator is familiar with parliamentary procedure and is there to keep the meeting moving forward properly until all of the "articles" or items of business have been acted upon.  Voters may not talk without being recognized by the moderator. All questions are to be directed to the moderator.  The moderator declares the outcome of all votes.

Town Meetings must adhere to the published agenda – new items may not be placed on the agenda. A Town Meeting's action is not valid unless the subject was listed on the call, and all action taken at Town Meeting must be within the scope of the article.  It is up to the moderator's discretion if amendments made to an article are within the original scope of the article.

There are several methods of voting used at Town Meeting:

  • Voice Vote (yeas and nays)
  • Show of Hands (when a voice vote is questioned)
  • Standing Vote (if the show of hands is indecisive)
  • Division of the House (the most decisive of the first four methods; the moderator asks those voting in the affirmative to move to one side of the room and those voting in the negative to move to the other)
  • Written Ballot (Not to be confused with statutory secret ballots that must be prepared ahead of time and are used when voting is done at the polls.)

Meetings on controversial topics are often adjourned to a referendum conducted by machine vote on a date in the future. The Board of Selectmen can remove any item on the call of a meeting for a machine vote or an item can be removed to referendum by petition, specific timeframes must be adhered to. 

For information on the Basics of Parliamentary Procedure used at Town Meeting, click this link parlimentary procedure