Christine Stuart photo
Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven (Christine Stuart photo)

A veteran West Haven lawmaker for the past 26 years won’t take the oath of office Wednesday when the legislature convenes for the first day of the 2017 session.

Instead, Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, resigned his elected position to accept a $92,500 position with the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Dargan, a fixture in the house and friend of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, submitted his resignation Wednesday to the Secretary of the State’s office around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“Stephen Dargan has dedicated his career to the safety of our communities – from serving for over two decades as a fire commissioner in West Haven, to his twenty years as co-chairman of the state legislature’s Public Safety Committee, which oversees all matters relating to civil preparedness, the state and municipal police, and the overall safety of our residents,” Malloy said in a statement. “He is highly respected among his colleagues for his evenhandedness, knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice system, and dedication to the people of our state.”

Dargan said he was grateful to the governor for this opportunity, which was offered to him late last week. However, the timing of the offer didn’t give him much time to make a decision.

“It’s difficult to say goodbye to something that I love,” Dargan said.

Dargan, 61, who has served in elected or appointed capacities for the city of West Haven since he was 21 years old, said “It’s been an honor to serve people in the city and it was a hard choice.”

Dargan said he knows there will be critics who will say he did it in order to increase his pension, but he denied that’s why he made the decision.

He said this isn’t a new government job being created for him. He’s filling a vacancy on the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“He brings unique insight to this position and is certain to be a good addition on our state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles,” Malloy said.

This position does require confirmation by the Judiciary Committee.

Speaker-elect Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said “Dargan will bring a wealth of relevant experience to his new position, particularly his expertise from years as House chair of our public safety committee. The legislature will miss Steve not only from a policy perspective, but also for his friendship and good natured sense of humor.”

Dargan’s resignation threw Democratic leadership in the House a curve ball with hours to go before the start of the new session. Already struggling to come up with committee assignments and leadership posts, Dargan’s resignation caused the release of that information to be further delayed.

Dargan, who wants to be able to say goodbye to all of his colleagues, said he wants them to remember to have fun.

“I believe in comic relief,” Dargan said. “We need to do more of that in the General Assembly.”

West Haven will have to hold a special election to replace Dargan. The governor has 10 days to sign a writ for a special election and the special election will be held 45 days after the governor issues the writ.

Sources say that a Republican Senator may also decide not to take the oath of office Wednesday to accept an appointment to the Auditors of Public Accounts. Robert Ward of North Branford, a former Republican lawmaker and commissioner, retired from the office this summer. Appointing a Republican Senator would give Democrats a one-seat majority in the Senate, which is currently split 18-18. Republican leadership in the House and the Senate have the ability to make the appointment to the post, which is considered a plum assignment with a salary of more than $150,000 a year.