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Selectboard Minutes

Selectboard Minutes, 01.25.2023

GUILFORD SELECTBOARD MEETING
Wednesday, 25 January 2023, 6:30 pm, 236 School Road, Guilford, VT 05301

DRAFT MINUTES
Meeting by Zoom due to dangerous weather conditions.

SELECTBOARD MEMBERS PRESENT by ZOOM: Zon Eastes, Chair, Michael Becker, Rusty Marine, Verandah Porche, Richard Wizansky

OFFICIALS/ STAFF PRESENT by ZOOM:  Sheila Morse (Interim Town Administrator)

PRESENT via Zoom: Richard and/or Patrice Pennington, Chad Kaminski, Cathi Wilken, Jaime Durham, Deborah Allbright, Don McLean, Steve Lembke, Barry Aleshnik, Chip Carter, Sheila Adams, Karen Murphy, Linda Hay, Jason Herron, Tosha Tillman, Diane Wrinn, Bob Audette, Rick Zamore, Jethro Eaton, James Haine, Anna Klein, Virginia Fleet, Nancy Detra, Marty Ramsburg, Tammy Sargent

  1. Call to Order 6:32 pm
  1. Rules of Procedure
  1. New Business: Acknowledge Receipt of and Respond to Petition for Australian Ballot  
    1. ACTION Michael moved and Richard seconded to reject the petition for inclusion in the 2023 Town Meeting. The vote was by Roll Call.  Zon, Verandah, Michael, and Richard were in favor. Rusty abstained. None were opposed. Motion carried.
    2. For the record, the wording of the petition and the response from Vermont League of Cities and Towns are attached.
    3. Zon invited the petitiones  to continue conversation with the Selectboard. 
  1. Actions Taken (see above)
  1. Actions to be Taken – the petitioners have been invited to discuss the matter further with the Selectboard.
  1. Adjournment
    • ACTION: Richard moved to adjourn. Verandah seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. None abstained. Motion carried. Meeting was adjourned at 6:56 p.m.

Meeting video:

Next Selectboard Meeting: Monday, 13 February 2023 at 6:30 p.m.  

Zon Eastes, Chair _____________________________________

Michael Becker _____________________________________

Rusty Marine _____________________________________

Verandah Porche _____________________________________

Richard Wizansky ____________________________________

The Town Clerk was presented with a petition for Australian Ballot for Town Meeting 2023.

The Town Clerk received and certified the petition prior to 5 p.m. Thursday, 1/19.
The petition reads as follows:
“Petition for Guilford’s 2023 Town Meeting Australian Ballot
We the undersigned Legal Voters of the Town of Guilford, Vermont, hereby direct the Guilford Selectboard to place the following question on the 2023 Town Meeting Australian Ballot:
The present longtime, Guilford Elected Town Treasurer who has also served as the Elected Town Clerk and the Delinquent Tax Collector is retiring in March of 2023. Therefore, shall the Guilford Voters allocate sufficient monies and direct the Guilford Elected Town Auditors to solicit bids to engage and assist with the performance of an external audit of ALL Guilford Town Monies and Funds as a safeguard for the past and future elected government persons?”

The Selectboard contacted Vermont League of Cities and Towns for advice about next steps.. Their legal advice is:

  1. Because the town votes by floor vote for everything besides election of town officers, such a petition can’t force the use of the Australian ballot for this type of article. The only way towns can use Australian ballot voting is by voting at a previous town meeting to use Australian ballot vote for other types of articles (such as public question and budget articles, which this article is a bit of a mashup of). So this question cannot be presented to voters by Australian Ballot. (emphasis added)
  1. This is not the type of petition the selectboard is compelled to place on the warning, instead of an Australian Ballot. See our voter-backed petition FAQs: https://www.vlct.org/voter-backed-petitions-faqs. Specifically see:
    1. Can the voters petition for any kind of article?  “Yes, but a selectboard is not legally required to honor a voter-backed petition unless it deals with a matter over which the town voters have been given explicit authority in statute. Some examples of such authority include:
      1. making social service appropriations pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 2691;
      2. voting to repeal the business property tax pursuant to 32 V.S.A. § 3849;
      3. voting to authorize the selectboard to hire a town manager pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 1241
      4. voting to disapprove a town ordinance that has recently been adopted by the selectboard pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 1973.
      5. In some towns, a governance charter gives additional authority to voters. Guilford does not have a charter.”
  1. If a voter-backed petition does not deal with a matter over which the town voters have been given authority in statute the selectboard may choose how to respond to that petition, including refusing to place it on the town warning or placing it under the non-binding, advisory section of the warning. A town is under no legal obligation to warn a vote on a matter that is “frivolous, useless or unlawful” or is not “within the province of the town meeting to grant or refuse through its vote.” (emphasis added)  Royalton Taxpayers v. Wassmandsdorf, 260 A.2d. 203 (1969).
  2. Under state law it is allowable for voters to petition to have the selectboard employ a CPA to perform an annual audit under 24 VAS section 1690. But that article requires specific language. See https://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/24/051/01690 (the language is: “To see if the [city, town, or village] will vote to instruct the [legislative body] to employ a certified public accountant or public accountant licensed in this State, to perform an annual financial audit of all funds of the [city, town, or village].”).
  3. There’s also nothing in state law that allows the voters to compel – even by petition – the selectboard to have the auditors be the authority to solicit and hire the auditing firm. The selectboard is the body that hires the auditing firm. (emphasis added)

The Town has employed an independent, professional audit firm with specific expertise in municipal finances for about the past 15 years. The decision to do so was taken after discovery of financial errors which had compounded over time in earlier years. Each year since 2007 or 2008 the Town has satisfied professional audit requirements. Safeguarding the security of Town funds and monies has been and continues to be a priority of all elected officials.

Budget Workshop Minutes, 01.10.23

Town of Guilford Budget Workshop Meeting
Tuesday, January 10, 2023 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
236 School Road, Guilford, VT 05301 and online

MINUTES

SELECTBOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: Zon Easteds, Michael Becker, Rusty Marine (via Zoom), Verandah Porche  (via Zoom), Richard Wizansky (via Zoom)

OFFICIALS/ STAFF PRESENT:  Sheila Morse (Interim Town Administrator)

PRESENT in person: Gordon Little (FAC)

PRESENT via Zoom: Tammy Sargent, Lynn Pancake (FAC), Lesley Malouin

Call to Order   at 9:00 a.m.

Continue work on FY 2024 Budgets: General (003) and Highway (009) operating budgets were reviewed one final time prior to being presented to the Selectboard at the 1.23.23 meeting for approval as projected. Also, recommendations for eliminating several unused account lines from the annual budget presentation, or for renaming budget lines to more accurately represent the purpose, or for consolidating redundant budget lines were presented for consideration by the Selectboard 

Adjournment: Zon moved and Rusty seconded to adjourn the meeting at about 10:15 a.m.  All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.

Selectboard Minutes, 01.09.2023

GUILFORD SELECTBOARD MEETING
Monday, 09 January 2023, 6:30 pm, 236 School Road, Guilford, VT 05301

DRAFT MINUTES

SELECTBOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: Zon Eastes, Chair, Michael Becker, Rusty Marine (via Zoom), Verandah Porche, Richard Wizansky (via Zoom)

OFFICIALS/ STAFF PRESENT:  Sheila Morse (Asst. Town Administrator); Dan Zumbruski (Road Commissioner)

PRESENT in person: Austin Rice (BCTV), Steve Lembke, Jared and Beth Bristol, John Franklin, Steve Detra, Andy Cotton

PRESENT via Zoom: Marty Ramsburg, Sheila Adams, Nancy Detra, Lesley Malouin, Karen and Shaun Murphy, Tammy Sargent, Anna Klein, Jackie Gaines, Barry Aleshnik

  1. Call to Order 6:30 pm
  1. Welcoming of Public – Community Comment Period (10 minutes)
    1. Verandah mentioned the Guilford Country Store will open under new management hopefully as soon as Feb 1. The new business operators live in Vernon and have family connections in Guilford
    2. Nancy Detra – Within last few months, the Guilford Energy Committee received two grants. One for E-bikes will be available for adult Guilford residents.  The grant from NE Grassroots Energy Fund supports the Window Dressers project. Window Dressers wants to provide inserts  to anyone who wants them. They offer 10 free inserts to anyone who asks for them. ALSO Nancy announced a greeting card and stationary workshop on Sunday at GCC from noon to 2 p.m. Participants will make cards and stationery , This project is inspired by the penpals project. 
  1. Changes to Agenda Order
    1. Add to Other Business: sign contracts between Guilford and Mastaler Cleaning Service and DuBois and King; potential discussion with GVFD
  1. Approval of Minutes (2 minutes)
  2. Regular Meeting – date
    1. ACTION: Verandah moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of 12.28.22 as written. Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
  1. Updates & Reports
    1. Highway ( 5 minutes): Normal winter road care; Dan will work with Michael on upcoming reviews. Dan spoke briefly about the highway equipment that will need to be replaced in the coming 12 months (over 2 fiscal years). The 1998 truck will be sold for parts or scrap; the 1993 chipper may be replaced soon; the 2013 tractor and 2013 grader will be traded in for newer models. Dan is getting quotes for Selectboard review.
  1. Old Business
    1. Treasurer and Town Administrator job searches (5 minutes) – TABLE
    2. IT consultant RFP
      1. ACTION: Zon moved and Verandah seconded to allow Sheila to sign a contract for $2000 to work with Marjorie Ray on the IT improvement project. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
    3. Mileage Certificate – ACTION: The Selectboard signed the certificate that is submitted annually to the AOT that confirms there’s been no change in our road miles in the past year.
  1. New Business
    1. Statistical Reappraisal (10 minutes)
      1. Sheila read the Assessor Clerk’s (Lisa) explanation of the two factors triggering a State-mandated statistical reappraisal of Guilford properties. Those are CLA (common level of appraisal) and COD (coefficient of dispersion), Guilford is one of about 160 towns in Vermont obligated to undertake the statistical reappraisal. This will be completed by June 30,2023.
      2. ACTION: Zon moved to sign the contract with Appraisal Resource Group for statistical reappraisal in the amount of $20,145.00. Richard seconded  All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. Payment for these services will come from the Reappraisal Fund (302) which is used to account for grant proceeds from the State for reappraisal purposes.
    2. Sheila provided a brief update on the Capital Improvement Plan expenditures. In extensive examination of audits and financial software records, it has been determined that there were diverse ways of accounting for both sources and uses of funds for capital projects, and that there was no systematic accounting for each asset. (The 2017 Capital Needs Assessment (CNA) accounts for seven categories of assets and has not been updated since early 2018, so projected costs are sure to be higher from 2023 on.) Only $843,754 has been spent from the Capital Fund on projects that were estimated to have cost $3,747,400 by this time. Costs in excess of $843,754 were paid for from different sources such as the General and Highway Reserve Funds, the Highway Reserve Fund, and grants. There is no sense in recreating more documentation for past projects. Going forward, the Town is determined that each project undertaken by the town (Capital and others) will account specifically for both sources of income and expenditures against those sources.  The Selectboard will take a good look at the original Capital Improvement Plan with an eye to updating it within the context of the Town’s forthcoming strategic planning process and updating the CNA. This will be an ongoing process, into FY2024.
  1. Finance
    1. Warrants (5 minutes)
Payroll – WE 01.01.23$6,151.84
Payroll – WE 01.08.23$6,196.72
Expense Warrant #2213    $346,991.34
TOTAL$359,339.90

ACTION Verandah moved to pay finance warrants as read.   Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. None abstained. Motion carried.

  1. Other Business
    1. Contracts between Guilford and Mastaler Cleaning Service and DuBois and King
      1. ACTION: Zon moved to sign the Dubois and King contract for strategic planning consulting services,  not to exceed $37,500.  Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. The project will be fully funded from the ARPA Grant.
      2. ACTION:  Zon moved to approve the Mastaler Cleaning service for the town office and library. Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
  1. GVFD Capital Fund: The selectboard and the GVFD trustees discussed how to honor the intent of voters’ authorization to annually raise taxes and appropriate funds to a sinking capital fund.  The Selectboard agreed that it makes sense for the GVFD to hold and manage the fund, rather than apply for reimbursements to cover capital expenses. It was determined that a Memorandum of Understanding would work well, and that the GVFD will report to voters in the annual town report on the use of this fund, as well as on their operating budget. 
  2. ACTION; Zon moved that Sheila and Beth Bristol draft the MOU by 1/23/22 for Selectboard and TGVFD approval. Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
  1. Communications
    1. Emerald Ash Borer has come to Guilford, per notification from the VT Urban & Community Forestry Program of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation. The Conservation Commission has been notified.
  1. Action Summary from Previous Meeting: None
  1. Actions Taken: approved minutes of 12.28.22 meeting; approved warrants, authorized contracts
  1. Actions to be Taken: GVFD-Town of Guilford MOU
  1. Adjournment

ACTION: Richard moved to adjourn. Rusty seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. None abstained. Motion carried. Meeting was adjourned at 7:34. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.

Meeting video – https://www.brattleborotv.org/guilford-selectboard/guilford-sb-mtg-1923

Next Selectboard Meeting: In response Monday, January 23, 2023 at 6:30 p.m.  

Zon Eastes, Chair _____________________________________

Michael Becker _____________________________________

Rusty Marine _____________________________________

Verandah Porche _____________________________________

Richard Wizansky ____________________________________

Selectboard Minutes, 12.28.2022

GUILFORD SELECTBOARD MEETING
Wednesday, 28 December 2022, 6:30 pm, 236 School Road, Guilford, VT 05301

MINUTES

SELECTBOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: Zon Eastes, Chair, Michael Becker, Rusty Marine (via Zoom), Verandah Porche, Richard Wizansky

OFFICIALS/ STAFF PRESENT:  Sheila Morse (Asst. Town Administrator)

PRESENT in person: Austin Rice (BCTV),  Patty Bullock, Jethro Eaton, Dolores Clark, Jeannette Tokarz, Julie Holland
PRESENT via Zoom: Cathi Wilken, Dan Ingold, Lesley Malouin, Tammy Sargent, Anna Klein, John Shaw, Julie Beet, Kyle Parker, Jamie Durham

  1. Call to Order 6:30 pm
  1. Welcoming of Public – Community Comment Period (10 minutes)
    1. Anna Klein advised that Neighborhood Roots.ord/fedco is organizing group seed order through FEDCO at a 20% discount. Ordering closes Saturday, 12.31.22.
    2. Also, they are organizing a soup for the soul community potluck at the BBCC on February 5th. Then, on February 25, there will be a community seed swap, also at the BBCC 
    3. John Shaw reminded people to sign up on the Library website – guilfordfreelibraryvt.org – to participate in Community Penpals. This endeavor connects people across town to exchange notes and letters through the winter. 
    4. Cathi Wilken spoke on behalf of Guilford Gazette. She thanked the Selectboard and residents for their donations in the past few months, and reminded candidates running for elected positions to please send a brief bio by 1/7/23 for inclusion in the forthcoming issue which will come out prior to Town Meeting. She also asked for volunteers to please come to help prepare the mailing. Lots of information at: https://guilfordvt.gov/discover-guilford/guilford-gazette/ 
  2. Changes to Agenda Order – move appointment of EMD to before Updates and Reports
  3. Approval of Minutes (2 minutes)
  4. Regular Meeting – date
    1. ACTION:-Richard  moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of 12.12.22 as written. Verandah seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
    2. ACTION: Richard moved to approve the minutes of the special meeting of 12.21.22 as written. Michael seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
  5. Appointment of EMD
    1. ACTION: Richard moved and Michael seconded to appoint Dan Ingold as Emergency Management Director.  All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. Dan described his extensive background in this area, which can be viewed on the meeting video. The Selectboard expressed their deep appreciation to Dan for stepping up to take on this role.
  6. Updates & Reports
    1. Highway ( 5 minutes)
      1. Dan was unable to attend the meeting but reported that winter work is underway; the crew is cutting some trees on Sweet Pond Road.
  7. Old Business
    1. Opening an account on Indeed.com to post job openings (2 minutes)
      1. ACTION: Richard moved that we open an indeed.com account at cost of $51 per application, Michael seconded All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 
      2. Sheila noted that there is a 72-hour window to review applications to determine if they are appropriate. We are not charged for applications that are rejected within that window. Richard suggested that we also post job openings in local newspapers, for which we have a budget.
    2. Report on Review of ARPA Advisory Committee Recommendations (15 minutes)
      1. Richard moved and Zon seconded that the SB accept the report of the Subcommittee on ARPA dollar expenditures. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
      2. Variations between the ARPA committee report and the Selectboard review were noted.
      3. Each of the recommendations is an actionable item that will be coordinated through the Town Administrator who will account for each recommendation as a separate project and track fund expenditures as well as attempt to assess any future impact on taxpayers.. 
  8. New Business
    1. Dates and arrangements for pre-Town Meeting and Town Meeting (2 minutes) –
      1. Pre-Town meeting, hosted by the Broad Brook Grange and the Selectboard, will be held at the BBCC on Thursday, February 23rd at 6:30 p.m.
      2. Town Meeting will convene at the Guilford Central School on Tuesday, March 7th, at 10 a.m.
      3. The Selectboard agreed to work with the BCA and Penny to determine the polling place, feeling that it’s most efficient to have polling and Town Meeting take place in the same location.
    2. Appointment of EMD (5 minutes) moved to head of meeting, see above 
    3. Housing needs, Jethro Eaton (8 minutes)
      1. Jethro recently attended a workshop dealing with the critical issue of housing needs in Windham County and throughout Vermont. There was a large turnout of municipal officials throughout the county and beyond. There’s a huge demand not just for low income and senior housing but also for the “missing middle”–those who cannot find adequate housing in the area where they work.. Adequate housing supply is just not being built. As far as Guilford is concerned, Algiers Village, where we have sewer and water, and public transportation, would be a prime location for new housing. The cost of wells and septic systems in new homes creates financial burdens on homeowners.  Grants for ADUs (accessory dwelling units) are available to homeowners.
      2. This is a need that’s been neglected for far too long. The Winston Prouty campus is working to create housing; there are community members in other towns trying to work on this critical issue. The fact that Guilford does not have zoning may make it easier to create more housing options.
    4. Planning Commission Strategic Plan contract recommendation (10 minutes)
      1. Jeannette Tokarznoted that the Planning Commission serves as stewards of the present and guide to the future. Vermont is unique in that municipalities, not a centralized government agency, own their planning processes and most often volunteers attempt to execute tasks generally taken on by professionals. Chris Campany, Executive Director of Windham Regional Commission, noted at a recent meeting that “available futures are not those that we passively forecast, but those we actively create” and Guilford is seeking to be proactive in planning for its future.
      2. To that end the PC issued an RFP to hire a Strategic Planning consultant. Twelve firms responded, seven of whom are VT-based. Of the two firms invited to make in-depth presentations to the PC, they recommend that the Selectboard approve DuBois and King who are focused on community engagement through different types of events to assess vision and needs. Their cost estimate was in line with others. 
      3. ACTION: Zon moved that the SB accept the Planning Commission’s recommendation to hire DuBois and King as strategic planning consultants for the Town to work with the Planning Commission and the Selectboard. Michael seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
      4. The cost of the DuBois and King consultant contract is $37,570.00. The cost of the project will be paid from ARPA funds.
    5. Report on Funds (20 minutes)
      1. Sheila provided an in depth explanation of the accounting for the proposed Library Expansion project, none of which affected the Capital Fund. She also briefly reviewed the difference between an operating budget and a Fund, reviewed bookkeeping transfers between accounts (see below), and provided up-to-date balances on a number of the Town’s key funds.
      2. ACTION: Zon moved and Richard seconded that the Selectboard approve the following fund transfers. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
        1. General Reserve Fund to Guilford Center Bike and Ped Study Fund ($7,432.02: town match of 8% of study expenses, after receipt of grant, to bring fund balance to -0-)
        2. General Reserve Fund to Guilford Free Library Fund ($52,732.26 to bring fund balance to -0-. Because the expansion vote failed on re-vote, expenses need to be covered from the General Reserve Fund. They can’t come from the Capital Fund.)
        3. General Reserve Fund to VCDP Grant for Guilford Free Library ($24,000.36 = expenses in excess of grant receipts. Again, these expenses cannot be capitalized due to re-vote decision.)
        4. General Reserve Fund to Emergency Response Fund ($5,700 to bring ERF to -0-. This fund had been carried at a negative balance for several years. I don’t know why.)
        5. Algiers Waterline Fund to General Reserve Fund ($11,110.71 = excess in the Waterline Fund which is no longer required to cover principle or interest payments on the VT Bond Bank waterline fund.)
  9. Finance
    • Warrants (5 minutes)
    • ACTION Verandah moved to pay finance warrants as read.   Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. None abstained. Motion carried.
  10. Other Business – NONE
  11. Communications – 
    1. Thank you letters for appropriations.
  12. Executive Session to discuss personnel issues per 1 V.S.A. § 313 (a)(3) to discuss the appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee.
    1. ACTION: Zon moved and Richard seconded to enter into executive session to discuss personnel issues per 1 V.S.A. § 313 (a)(3) to discuss the appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee.and to invite the Assistant Town Administrator to join. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
    2. The Selectboard entered Executive Session at 8:16 p.m.
    3. ACTION: Zon moved andVerandah seconded to exit Executive Session at 8:40 p.m..  All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 
    4. ACTION: Zon moved and Richard seconded that the Selectboard accept Peder Rude’s resignation and authorize Zon to sign the appropriate papers. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. The Selectboard expressed its appreciation for Peder’s service to the Town and wished him the best and better health.
    5. ACTION:  Verandah moved to appoint Sheila Interim Town Administrator and Zon seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 
  13. Action Summary from Previous Meeting: None
  14. Actions Taken (see above)
  15. Actions to be Taken: None
  16. Adjournment
    • ACTION: Richard moved to adjourn. Verandah seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. None abstained. Motion carried. Meeting was adjourned at 8:44

Meeting video – https://www.brattleborotv.org/guilford-selectboard/guilford-sb-mtg-122822

Next Selectboard Meeting: Monday, January 9, 2023 at 6:30 p.m.  

Zon Eastes, Chair _____________________________________

Michael Becker _____________________________________

Rusty Marine _____________________________________

Verandah Porche _____________________________________

Richard Wizansky ____________________________________

Selectboard Minutes, 12.21.2022

GUILFORD SELECTBOARD – SPECIAL MEETING
Wednesday, 21 December 2022, 9:00 a.m, 236 School Road, Guilford, VT

Minutes

SELECTBOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: Zon Eastes, Chair
Selectboard Members Present via Zoom: Richard Wizansky, Rusty Marine, Michael Becker, Verandah Porche

OFFICIALS/ STAFF PRESENT: Sheila Morse (Asst. Town Administrator)

PRESENT in person: Stve Lembke

PRESENT via Zoom: Tammy Sargent, Jodie Solomon, Barry Aleshnik, Lesley Malouin, Rick Zamore, Jeff Woodward, Jason Herron, Cynthia Clark, Chad Kaminski, Denise Jaffee, Marty Ramsburg and Frank Larkin

I. Call to Order   at  9:03

II. Rules of Procedure  and community engagement

III. New Business – Jason Herron’s Open Meeting Law Violation #9

  1. Allegation #9:  On December 15, 2022,  Jason Herron alleged that Selectboard Chair Zon Eastes and the Town of Guilford Selectboard violated the Open Meeting Law because, at the end of budget workshops on October 27, 2022 and December 1, 2022, Mr. Eastes asked the Selectboard to please stay on after the workshop.  As proof of the violation, Mr. Herron cites 1 V.S.A. § 310(2) of the Open Meeting Law, which defines a meeting as, “a gathering of a quorum of the members of a public body for the purpose of discussing the business of the public body or for the purpose of taking action.”  Mr. Herron states that, “[b]y failing to give proper notice of this meeting and failing to provide the public an opportunity to participate, by expressing its opinion on whatever business was discussed by the public body, the selectboard has violated the open meeting law.” 
  2. Response:  
    1. Mr. Herron cites the definition of “meeting” under 1 V.S.A. § 310(2) as proof that Mr. Eastes violated the Open Meeting Law when he asked the Selectboard to stay behind after the budget workshops.  However, Mr. Herron may not realize that there are certain exceptions to this definition.  Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 310(3)(B), a “meeting” under the Open Meeting Law shall not mean any communication, including in person or through email, telephone, or teleconferencing, between members of a public body for the purpose of scheduling a meeting, organizing an agenda, or distributing materials to discuss at a meeting. (emphasis added.)  In both instances Mr. Herron references, Mr. Eastes asked Selectboard members to stay on after the workshop so that he could distribute materials to discuss at a future meeting.  Gathering to distribute materials is not a violation of the Open Meeting Law, as this does not constitute a meeting pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 310(3)(B). 
    2. The Selectboard members understand that, after Chairman Eastes distributed the materials, if any Selectboard member asked a question or discussed anything outside of scheduling or organizing an agenda, it would be a violation of the Open Meeting Law.  As a precautionary measure, the Selectboard will acknowledge that it understands that it may not discuss other business of the Town when materials are being distributed.  No actions were taken after the budget workshops that need to be voided or ratified. 
    3. Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314(c), when a person is aggrieved by a denial of an Open Meeting Law violation, that person may bring an action in the Civil Division of the Vermont Superior Court
  3. ACTION: Zon moved that the Selectboard deny the allegation, Verandah seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
  4. Discussion related to trust of elected officials and the fact that state statute does not always address each situation specifically.

IV. Adjournment : Richard moved and Verandah seconded that the meeting be adjourned.  All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. The meeting adjourned at 9:24 a.m.

Link to meeting video: see www.guilfordvt.gov

Next Selectboard Meeting: Wednesday, 12.28.22 at 6:30 p.m. 

Zon Eastes, Chair _____________________________________

Michael Becker _____________________________________

Rusty Marine _____________________________________

Verandah Porche _____________________________________

Richard Wizansky ____________________________________

Selectboard Minutes, 12.12.2022

GUILFORD SELECTBOARD MEETING
Monday, 12 December 2022, 6:30 pm, 236 School Road, Guilford, VT

MINUTES 

SELECTBOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: Zon Eastes, Chair, Michael Becker, Rusty Marine (via Zoom), Verandah Porche, Richard Wizansky 

OFFICIALS/ STAFF PRESENT: Sheila Morse (Asst. Town Administrator), Dan Zumbruski (Road Commissioner) 

PRESENT in person: Peter Kelleher (BCTV), Steve Lembke, JamieDurham, Kyle Parker 

PRESENT via Zoom: Cynthia Clark, Anna Klein, Corey Frehsee (Stevens and Associate), Reagan Anderson, Barry Aleshnik, John Shaw, Jeff Woodward, Marty Ramsburg, Frank Larkin, Jim and Pat Haine, Shaun Murphy, Olga Peters, Rick Zamore, Sheila Adams, Jeannette Tokarz, Nancy Detra 

I. Call to Order at 6:30 p.m. (Estimated Time) 

II. Welcoming of Public – Community Comment Period (10 minutes) 

  • a. Reagan Anderson: Guilford Folk Learning Connections, a group whose goal is connecting people in the community to share skills and friendship, is hosting a Saturday 12.17 gathering and a cookie potluck at the Library from 1:30 to 4 pm to brainstorm ideas for the future. Past and ongoing initiatives include a winter penpal project for the town. 
  • b. John Shaw noted the Library has a program Tuesday, 12/13 from 5:30 for stargazing. People will meet at the Playscape to view the Geminid meteor showers. This is an opportunity to wonder together! 

III. Changes to Agenda Order (2 minutes) NONE 

IV. Approval of Minutes (2 minutes) 

  • a. Minutes of the regular meeting of 11.28.22 and the special meeting of 12.8.22
  • a. ACTION: Michael moved and Richard seconded to approve the minutes of the meeting of 11.28.22 as written. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 
  • b. ACTION: Verandah moved and Richard seconded to approve the minutes of the Special Selectboard meeting of 12.8.22. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 

V. Updates & Reports 

  • a. Highway (5 minutes) 
    • i. Dan reported that the crew handled Sunday night’s snowstorm pretty well although there was more snow than anticipated. This year they will not chase storms, but will wait as much as possible for a storm to end to do a “one and done” sweep. Will start using and re-filling sand and salt sheds. Our new hire worked a plow for the first time and was cautious and successful.

VI. Old Business 

  • a. Legal Issues (5 minutes)
    • i. ACTION: Zon moved to vote to not reconsider Mr. Herron’s October 5, 2022 allegation as requested in his November 30, 2022 submittal, and to officially sign the response letter sent to Mr. Herron after the 12.8.22 Special Selectboard meeting. Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 
    • ii. Zon spoke to these continuing issues:
      • 1. We are anticipating increasing our legal fee budget from $2,500 in FY2022 to $5,000 in FY2023 and up to $50,000 in FY2024 . The reason for this substantial increase is that dealing with Mr. Herron’s appeal to the VT Supreme Court will incur a huge expense to the town. 
      • 2. We are dealing with Public Record Requests, Open Meeting Law violation allegations, and a lawsuit. None of these repetitious claims can be handled without the advice of the town’s attorneys. They come primarily from one source. 
      • 3. There is a remarkable amount of repetition ( “res judicata” says that once a decision has been made it will not be reconsidered”) that should be acknowledged by the community as it is being done by the SB. We are being badgered. 
      • 4. The Selectboard does take these issues seriously, scrutinizing each carefully with our attorneys to make sure we’re not leaving any stone unturned. There have been comments from some community members suggesting that we may not be taking these issues seriously. That is not true. 
      • 5. We are learning that this situation is not being addressed out of a concern for Guilford’s health, as claimed by the accuser. 
      • 6. Zon reminded attendees that the meeting is open to comments only during motions, not in response to remarks.

VII. New Business 

  • a. Housing needs, Jethro Eaton (8 minutes) – TABLED 
  • b. ARPA Advisory Committee report (8 minutes) 
    • i. Zon sincerely thanked the committee for coming together as strangers and coalescing as a group that worked extremely well together. He noted that the group consulted with Katie Buckley, Director Federal Funding Assistance Program at VLCT. Katie asked permission to use this report as a model statewide for how to work with the committee! High praise from VLCT’s ARPA Director. 
    • ii. Jamie outlined the three phases of the process, and the project categories and priorities in the report. She emphasized the importance of leveraging the ARPA dollars, specifically with matching grants.
    • iii. ACTION: Michael moved and Verandah seconded that the SB accept the report as written. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. The report will be posted on the website. Verandah said if there were an award for community service and working with exemplary collaboration this committee would receive it. 
    • iv. Next steps: SB will consider the committee recommendations and make decisions based on the report. The report does not now include any actions. Verandah moved and Rusty seconded that Michael and Richard serve as a sub-committee to thoroughly review and report back to the SB with recommendations regarding projects and expenditures.
  • c. Internet Technology security (3 minutes)
    •  i. Sheila described the need for an IT survey and the content of the RFP.
    • ii. ACTION: Richard moved and Michael seconded to approve issuing the RFP for an IT consultant. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 
    • iii. The RFP will be paid for out of the Technical Support line or the general reserve fund if the website improvement contract is not paid for out of ARPA funds

VIII. Finance Warrants

a. ACTION: Verandah moved and Zon seconded to pay the following warrants. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. (5 minutes) 

Payroll – WE 12/04/22$7,220.97 
Payroll – WE 12/11/22$6,322.26 
Expense Warrant #2211$21,817.17 
TOTAL$35,360.40

IX. Other Business – NONE 

X. Communications (2 minutes) 

  • a. SEVCA – letter of appreciation for Guilford’s appropriation. 
  • b. Guilford resident- concern regarding civility in meeting dynamics. 

I. Executive Session to discuss personnel issues per 1 V.S.A. § 313 (a)(3) to discuss the appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee. 

a. ACTION: Zon moved to enter executive session to discuss personnel issues per 1 V.S.A. § 313 (a)(3) to discuss the appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee and to invite Sheila Morse to participate. Michael seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 

b. ACTION: Zon moved to exit Executive Session at 7:52 pm. Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 

c. ACTION: Zon moved to approve bonuses for staff as discussed, noting that the Board is responding to a world where there are a lot of pressures and stresses. Richard seconded. Zon, Michael, Richard, and Verandah were in favor. Rusty abstained. None were opposed. Motion carried.

d. Sheila will send notes advising staff about the bonus prior to the year’s end, as checks will not be distributed until 12.29. 

II. Actions from Previous Meeting – NONE 

XI. Action Taken see above 

XII. Actions to be Taken 

XIII. Adjournment 

a. ACTION: Richard moved to adjourn and Michael seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 

XIV. The meeting was adjourned at 7 59 p.m. 

Meeting video – https://www.brattleborotv.org/guilford-selectboard/guilford-sb-mtg-121222

Next Selectboard Meeting: Monday, December 28, 2022 at 6:30 pm 

Zon Eastes, Chair _____________________________________ 

Michael Becker _____________________________________ 

Rusty Marine _____________________________________ 

Verandah Porche _____________________________________ 

Richard Wizansky ____________________________________ 

Selectboard Minutes, 12.08.2022

GUILFORD SPECIAL SELECTBOARD MEETING
Thursday, 08 December 2022, 9:00 a.m., 236 School Road, Guilford, VT

MINUTES

SELECTBOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: Zon Eastes, Chair, Michael Becker, Rusty Marine (via Zoom), Verandah Porche, Richard Wizansky

OFFICIALS/ STAFF PRESENT:  Sheila Morse (Asst. Town Administrator)

PRESENT in person: Steve Lembke, Gordon Little, Marty Ramsburg, Frank Larkin, Nancy Detra, Deborah and David Albright

PRESENT via Zoom: Chad Kaminski, David Eastman, Jim Haine, Connie Burton, Barry Aleshnik, Bob Audette, Cathi Wilken, Erika Elder, Christina Belogour, Anne Montgomery, Jason Herron, Mary Wallace Collins, Michael Hanish, Pat Haine, Linda Hay, Cynthia Clark, Rick Zamore, Virginia F,  Joslyn McIntyre, Rick Zamore, Anna Klein, Tammy Sargent

  1. Call to Order 9:02
  1. Rules of Procedure were read by Rusty; Zon announced that comments would be restricted to 3 minutes per person, and that there would be no response.
  1. New Business
    1. Jason Herron: Open Meeting Law Violation #8
      1. Allegation #8:  On November 30, 2022, Jason Herron alleged that Assistant Town Administrator Sheila Morse violated the Open Meeting Law by seeking advice from the Town Attorney outside of a duly warned meeting.  Although Mr. Herron previously alleged the same violation, and the Selectboard denied his allegation, he now additionally claims Ms. Morse violated 1 V.S.A. § 312(g) by seeking advice from the Town Attorney outside a duly warned meeting.  In particular, he claims Ms. Morse violated the portion of 1 V.S.A. § 312(g) which states, “[r]outine, day-to-day administrative matters that do not require action by the public body may be conducted outside a duly warned meeting, provided that no money is appropriated, expended, or encumbered.”   While Mr. Herron lists multiple “Specific Violations”, they appear to center on a specific claim that, “[t]here has been no open meeting discussion authorizing the assistant town administrator to spend taxpayer funds contacting the Town’s law firm for any reason.”  Mr. Herron claims that Ms. Morse did not have authority to seek legal advice on behalf of the Town in her position as Assistant Town Administrator.
      2. Response:  Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314(b)(2), the Selectboard is required to respond publicly within ten calendar days to a written notice of an alleged Open Meeting Law violation.
        1. Mr. Herron already put forward this allegation on October 5, 2022, and the Town denied the allegation.  While Mr. Herron has added claims relative to 1 V.S.A. § 312(g), the additional claims do not alter the Selectboard’s decision.  Town Administrator Sheila Morse did not violate the Open Meeting Law in contacting the Town Attorney for advice.  Ms. Morse is not subject to the Open Meeting Law, as she is not a member of the “public body” as defined in 1 V.S.A. § 310(4).  
        2. We also note that Mr. Herron claims Ms. Morse redacts the Town’s legal bills.   This is not the case.  Monaghan Safar Ducham PLLC provides legal bills to the Town in a redacted format.  If the Selectboard were to provide unredacted versions to the public, it would first need to waive the attorney-client privilege for these legal bills.  The Town has not waived this privilege.  
        3. We previously denied Mr. Herron’s October 5, 2022 allegation and will not accept additional arguments from Mr. Herron as to whether Sheila Morse violated the Open Meeting Law by contacting the Town Attorney relative to Mr. Herron’s questions regarding the Town’s legal bills.  
        4. Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314(c), a person aggrieved by a denial of an Open Meeting Law violation may bring an action in the Civil Division of the Vermont Superior Court.  
      3. Zon stated that the Selectboard will take no action because there’s nothing new to be acted on.
      4. Discussion
        1. Two participants raised concern about the Selectboard not being open about their actions. An accusation was made that the first Budget Workshop meeting Zoom video was edited.
        2. Others commented that the Selectboard does its best to adhere to Open Meeting Law requirements and that, while members may make mistakes, there is no intent to defraud the town.
        3. Some comments related to how to stop these accusations going forward, because it appears that there is no acceptable resolution to the party bringing them forward.
        4. Other comments reminded participants that the SB members are neighbors, good people, volunteers, and may make mistakes occasionally, but that we are a community. No one wants strife or contention. The community appreciates the SB. It would be nice to know, if the SB says, perhaps we made mistakes and we’re all learning, that would suffice. We have worked collaboratively in the past, but wishing doesn’t make it so now. That seems to be in our past. So it’s important that the SB acknowledge that OML is critical. Look at each allegation to assess if there’s a level of truth or substance, acknowledge a mistake, and commit to acting on that going forward. There has never been an intent on the part of this or past Selectboards to execute a decision that is harmful.
  1. Adjournment
    1. ACTION: Michael moved and Richard seconded that the meeting be adjourned. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. The meeting adjourned at 9:35 a.m.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held on Monday, 12.12.22 at 6:30 p.m.

Zon Eastes, Chair _____________________________________

Michael Becker _____________________________________

Rusty Marine _____________________________________

Verandah Porche _____________________________________

Richard Wizansky ____________________________________

Click here to download a pdf file – Selectboard Minutes 12.08.22

Selectboard Minutes, 11.28.2022

GUILFORD SELECTBOARD MEETING
Monday, 28 November 2022, 6:30 pm, 236 School Road, Guilford, VT 

MINUTES

SELECTBOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: Zon Eastes, Chair, Michael Becker, Rusty Marine (via Zoom), Verandah Porche, Richard Wizansky

OFFICIALS/ STAFF PRESENT:  Sheila Morse (Asst. Town Administrator)

PRESENT in person: Austin Rice (BCTV), Steve Lembke, Chuck Collins, Mary Wallace-Collins, Tammy Sargent, Rick Zamore

PRESENT via Zoom: Tosha Tillman, Jim Haines, Don McLean, Barry Aleshnik, Victoria Hone (attorney at Facey Goss & McPhee), Anna Klein, Lesley Malouin, Jeff Woodward, Sheila Adams, Christina Belogour, Julie Beet, Cynthia Clark, Jason Herron

  1. Call to Order at 6:30 p.m. Estimated Time
  1. Welcoming of Public – Community Comment Period (10 minutes)
    1. Anna Klein of Neighborhood Roots. This is a relatively new Guilford non-profit organization working to strengthen the local food economy and alleviate some food security issues. The group exchanges seeds, conducts workshops that strengthen the ability to grow food locally,  and has set up two tiny free food pantries located at the Playscape and the Guilford Center Road/Weatherhead Hollow Rd. intersection. Community has come together to donate to those who need to access it. Their largest project is the Guilford Food Hub which moved into the BBCC. The goal is to support a venue for local farmers (and FoodConnects) to sell their produce to consumers who sign up for a group order. All food is sold at or below cost and EBIT purchases are possible. There is also a pay-what-you-want food shelf stocked from 3 – 6 on the days they are open. Go to www.NeighborhoodRoots.org to get on a waiting list to participate in the buying club. Anna noted that this is a volunteer-run community organization and would love more participation.
  1. Changes to Agenda Order (2 minutes) NONE
  1. Approval of Minutes (2 minutes)
    1. ACTION:  Verandah moved to approve the minutes of the meeting of 11.14.22 as written. Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
  1. Updates & Reports
    1. Highway (5 minutes)
      1. As Dan was unable to attend, Sheila reported that the crew is continuing to clean out culverts. They will attend a special flagging training this week.
    2. Recreation Commission
      1. Mary Collins expressed thanks to their co-commissioners and Verandah, the Selectboard Liaison, for their work. Recreation holds seasonal events including a Nordic ski program with rentals available at the library, Winterfest, a Wake Up the Earth parade with egg hunt, Bike Night, a Halloween party at BBCC (which they would like it to be even bigger next year), Trunk or Treat at the Fairgrounds, etc. Want to encourage more community participation, especially by joining the events committee. It was noted that the Rec Commission brings home- schooling families together with GSC families. The Recreation Commission has a FB page: Guilford Recreation with lots of photos. Follow them!
  1. Old Business
    1. Single Source Guard Rail/Road Stabilization bid (5 minutes)
      1. Richard moved and Zon seconded to authorize Dan to rent equipment for about 10 hours with which to retrieve rip rap from Broad Brook to repair guardrails on Guilford Center Road at a cost not to exceed $1,900. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
    2. Stony Hill Road (2 minutes)
      1. Zon reported that the SB contacted the Town’s attorney regarding the request to rescind their original decision. Per the attorney, the SB has no standing to rescind the decision as this is an issue between two landowners. The hope is that the abutters can come to an amicable resolution.
    3. Lawsuit resolution: Herron vs Guilford (3 minutes): Zon reported that the lawsuit by Jason Herron: the decision by the Superior Court was found in favor of the Town of Guilford. There is no further action to be taken on the part of the Selectboard. Herron strenuously objected to not being permitted to voice his opinion. Zon advised that as there is no action to be taken, and therefore no discussion to be had.
  1. New Business
    1. VT Dept. of Health – Guilford – BBCC point of distribution contract (8 minutes)
      1. ACTION:  The Selectboard expressed its unanimous approval and gratitude to the BBCC for taking on this role.
    2. contract with Codewryter for website redesign (5 minutes)
      1. ACTION:  Zon moved and Richard seconded to approve Codewryter as a sole-source vendor for the redesign of the Town’s website, based on their experience over the past several months in updating and analyzing the website. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 
      2. ACTION:  Richard moved and Michael seconded to approve the proposed contract with Marjorie Ray of Codewryter to revamp the Town’s website at a cost not to exceed $3,600.00. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. The cost will be allocated to 003-3000-63.04 Technical Support.
    3. Authorization of Fund Transfer Journal entries (10 minutes)
      1. ACTION: Richard moved and Michael seconded to approve the following transfers of funds
        1. 009-Highway Surplus to Highway Reserve Fund: $191,044.82. This increased the balance in the Highway Reserve Fund to $1,133,193.
        2. 003 – Municipal Fund to General Reserve Fund: $45,528.77. This increased the balance in the General Reserve Fund to $267,494.00
        3. 604-Emergency Response Fund from General Reserve Fund: $5,700 to bring this inactive fund to $-0-.
        4. 007-Bike and Pedestrian Study Fund from General Reserve Fund: $7,432.02 to cover Town match to grant award.
      2. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
  1. Finance  (5 minutes)
  2. Warrants  ACTION: Verandah moved and Zon seconded to pay the following warrants. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
Payroll – WE 11/20/22$6,355.75
Payroll – WE 11/27/22$6,693.25
Expense Warrant #2210$42,964.66
Expense Warrant #FW10$21.50
TOTAL$56,035.16
  1. Other Business – NONE
  2. Communications (2 minutes)
    1. Rescue, Inc. Report and Invitation
    2. Request for permission to gain access to the tree from the front yard of the museum from Laura Lawson-Tucker:
      1. ACTION: Richard moved and Michael seconded to grant permission to the property owners to allow the tree work to be conducted from the Old Town Hall (Museum)  property, as long as the property is left in the state at which they found it. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
  1. Executive Session to discuss personnel issues per 1 V.S.A. § 313 (a)(3) to discuss the appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee
    1. ACTION:  Zon moved to enter executive session to discuss personnel issues per 1 V.S.A. § 313 (a)(3) to discuss the appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee and to invite Sheila Morse to participate. Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
    2. Zon moved to exit Executive Session at 8:10 pm. Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
    3. No action taken
  2. Actions from Previous Meeting – NONE
  1. Action Taken see above
  2. Actions to be Taken
  1. Adjournment ACTION: Richard moved to adjourn and Michael seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
  2. The meeting was adjourned at 8:12 pm

Meeting video – https://www.brattleborotv.org/guilford-selectboard/guilford-sb-112822 

Next Selectboard Meeting: Monday, December 12, 2022 at 6:30 pm  

Zon Eastes, Chair _____________________________________

Michael Becker _____________________________________

Rusty Marine _____________________________________

Verandah Porche _____________________________________

Richard Wizansky ____________________________________

Click here to download a pdf file – Selectboard Minutes 11.28.22

Selectboard Special Meeting 11.02.2022

GUILFORD SELECTBOARD – SPECIAL MEETING
Wednesday, November 2, 2022, 6:30 pm, 236 School Road, Guilford, VT

Minutes

SELECTBOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: Zon Eastes, Chair; Richard Wizansky, Rusty Marine, Michael Becker, Verandah Porche via Zoom

OFFICIALS/ STAFF PRESENT: Sheila Morse (Asst. Town Administrator)

PRESENT in person: Richard and Patricia Bullock

PRESENT via Zoom: Jaime Durham, Nancy Detra, Victoria Hone, Tammy Sargent, Steve Lembke, Elliot Mitchell, Anna Klein, Jeannette Tokarz, Jason Herron, Rick Zamore, Sheila Adams, Anne Rider, Virginia F, Don McLean, Patrice Pennington,

  1. Call to Order   at 6:30
  1. Rules of Procedure  and community engagement 
  1. New Business

Open Meeting Law Violation Allegation #6:  On October 25, 2022, Jason Herron alleged that Town Administrator Peder Rude and former Selectboard Chair Richard Wizansky violated the Open Meeting Law by seeking advice from the Town Attorney outside of a duly warned meeting.  Although Mr. Herron previously alleged the same violation, and the Selectboard denied his allegation, he now additionally claims Mr. Rude and Mr. Wizansky violated 1 V.S.A. § 312(g) by seeking advice from the Town Attorney outside a duly warned meeting and has requested that the Selectboard reconsider his allegations.  In particular, he claims Mr. Rude and Mr. Wizansky violated the portion of 1 V.S.A. § 312(g) which states, “[r]outine, day-to-day administrative matters that do not require action by the public body may be conducted outside a duly warned meeting, provided that no money is appropriated, expended, or encumbered.”  

Mr. Herron’s specific violation claims are the following:

  1. “Rude spent $192.50 in taxpayer funds seeking advice from the Town’s attorney outside of a Duly Warned Meeting.  That Violates 1 VSA 312(g).”
  1.  “Chairman Wizansky improperly utilized the Town Administrator (A town Resource) to act on behalf of the library, he was a Trustee and The Treasurer of.  This was a discussion with the bond bank about the feasibility of using recently discovered funds for the library addition.  This was all done without the Selectboards Joint Authority which violates both 1 VSA 172 and 1 VSA 312(g).”
  1. “Wizansky and Rude allocated taxpayer funds for the Town’s Law Firm to draft the revised bond language before the funds were disclosed to the public which violates both 1 VSa 312(g) and 1 VSA 172.”

Response:  Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314(b)(2), the Selectboard is required to respond publicly within ten calendar days to a written notice of an alleged Open Meeting Law violation.Selectboard is required to respond publicly within 10 calendar days 

ACTION: Zon moved and Richard that the Selectboard determine that no violation of the Open Meeting Law has occurred and that no cure is necessary.  Further, if Mr. Rude and Mr. Wizansky had violated the Open Meeting Law by seeking advice from the Town Attorney outside of a duly warned meeting, which they have not, the Selectboard later ratified their decisions by approving the finance expense warrants that included the legal fees.  All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.

Discussion: There was a disagreement between Jason Herron and others about whether or not town business can be conducted and expenses incurred absent a duly-warned public meeting.

Open Meeting Law Violation Allegation #7:  On October 26, 2022, Jason Herron alleged that Selectboard Chair Zon Eastes violated the Open Meeting Law by seeking advice from the Town Attorney outside of a duly warned meeting.  Although Mr. Herron previously alleged the same violation, and the Selectboard denied his allegation, he now additionally claims Mr. Eastes violated 1 V.S.A. § 312(g) by seeking advice from the Town Attorney outside of a duly warned meeting and has requested that the Selectboard reconsider his allegations.  In particular, he claims Mr. Eastes violated the portion of 1 V.S.A. § 312(g) which states, “[r]outine, day-to-day administrative matters that do not require action by the public body may be conducted outside a duly warned meeting, provided that no money is appropriated, expended, or encumbered.”  

Mr. Herron’s specific violation claims are the following:

  1. “The receipt below (see attached full allegation)is evidence that Chairman Eastes spent $35.00 in taxpayer funds, seeking advice from Guilford’s Town attorney.  Those funds were allocated to the law firm by Eastes outside of a Duly Warned Meeting, which is a violation of 1 VSA 312(g).”
  1.  “Chairman Eastes violated 1 VSA 172 when, acting on behalf of the Selectboard, he contacted the Town’s law firm without their Joint Authority.” 

Response:  Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314(b)(2), the Selectboard is required to respond publicly within ten calendar days to a written notice of an alleged Open Meeting Law violation.

ACTION: Zon moved and Richard seconded that Selectboard Chair Zon Eastes did not violate the Open Meeting Law in contacting the Town Attorney for advice.   He is authorized as a Selectboard member to seek advice from the Town Attorney without approval of the full board, and this has no implication on the Open Meeting Law.  All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.

Discussion: several major concerns were expressed by Jason and a number of residents, including: the Selectboard is being hampered in its responsibilities to conduct town business; the huge time and expense burden of handling these allegations; the charge that expenses cannot be incurred without a duly-warned public meeting; and a call to move on from making repeated allegations and charges and go to court for resolution; and a call to civility.

Resubmittal of Open Meeting Law Violation Allegation #3:   In Mr. Herron’s October 26, 2022 email regarding allegation #7, he goes on to seemingly request that the Selectboard reconsider his previous allegation #3 in which he claimed that he was refused a reasonable opportunity to speak at a May 9, 2022 public meeting.  

Response: Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314(c), following a denial of a violation, a person aggrieved by a violation may bring an action in the Civil Division of the Superior Court.  

ACTION:Zon moved and Richard seconded that the  Selectboard not reconsider this exact same allegation for a second time, as the Selectboard has already carefully considered this allegation and made a decision on October 10, 2022 denying the allegation pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314(b)(2). All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried

  1. Adjournment : Michael moved and Rusty seconded that the meeting be adjourned.  All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. The meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.

Link to meeting video: see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60sQbgaQngc

Attachments:
Allegations and Response

Next Selectboard Meeting: Monday, 11/14/22 at 6:30 pm  

Zon Eastes, Chair     _____________________________________

Michael Becker    _____________________________________

Rusty Marine        _____________________________________

Verandah Porche    _____________________________________

Richard Wizansky     ____________________________________

Open meeting Violation number 6


Jason Herron
Tue, Oct 25, 8:39 AM (9 days ago)

to Zon, me

To the Chairman of the Guilford Selectboard Zon Eastes,

Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314(b)(1) and as a Resident of Guilford I, Jason Herron, am submitting to the public body this written notice that alleges a specific violation of this subchapter and requests a specific cure of such violation.

Regarding the Selectboards Denial of Open Meeting Violation #1

The Guilford Selectboard’s Sole Reason for why they claim 1 VSA 172 (Joint Authority) was not violated was based on this one statement. “The Town Administrator has the authority under his contract to work on behalf of the Selectboard.  This includes contacting the Town Attorney for advice and to draft bond language for the Selectboard’s consideration. Mr. Rude’s contact with the Town Attorney in no way violates the Open Meeting Law.

The Selectboard’s reasoning for this denial REQUIRES that I now invoke 1 VSA 312(g) as additional evidence to the original allegation.

1 VSA 312(g) states that “routine, day to day administrative matters may be conducted outside a duly warned meeting, provided that no money is appropriated, expended or encumbered.”

In this instance, Guilford’s Town Administrator, Peder Rude, spent $192.50 in taxpayer funds, seeking advice from the Town’s attorney. This was done Outside of a Duly Warned Meeting. That is a clear violation of 1 VSA 312(g).

1 VSA 312(g) explains why the Selectboard was wrong in their original denial and should therefore reconsider their original determination. The Town Administrator has no authority to spend taxpayer funds on behalf of the selectboard. No individual Selectboard member, including the Chairperson, has the authority to spend tax dollars outside of a duly warned meeting. If taxpayer funds are to be spent, it needs to be authorized in a meeting and done with the Selectboards Joint Authority.

The Town Administrator, or any individual Selectboard member, can hire their own attorney to research statutes. Or they can utilize the free legal services offered to them by the VLCT. Or they can research the Statutes themselves utilizing their free Selectboard Handbook or any number of free online resources. Or they can make a motion, in an Open Meeting, and vote to authorize the spending of tax dollars for legal advice. However, no one is authorized to remove tax dollars from the public’s pocket without their consent. 

The following paragraph is a transcribed quote from Guilford’s Town Administrator, Peder Rude, during Guilford’s Selectboard meeting on December 27, 2021. The town of Guilford had recently discovered some unused funds and Rude was explaining the events that transpired immediately following that discovery. Here is the meeting for reference. The entirety of this particular statement starts at the 6:10 mark.

“There was one final payment to pay off that bond. Through the discussion with the representative at the bond bank and noting that there are no more expenses outstanding for that portion of the project, what can the town do with those funds? Which led to the topic of the project at the library. We had a few questions, so we set up a follow-up meeting with the bond bank with Richard and Isaac Wagner and discussed with them about the feasibility of using those funds for the library project.”

The Guilford Selectboard Chairman at the time was Richard Wizansky. Wizansky was also the Treasurer and a Trustee of the Guilford Free Library. According to Rude’s statement, Wizanksy used town assets, to meet and discuss reallocating $195,000 in recently discovered public funds to the library addition. These funds were earmarked to the library addition before they were disclosed to the public. This was done without the concurrence of a majority of the selectboard body violating Vermont State Statute 1 V.S.A § 172. Joint authority

When joint authority is given to three or more, the concurrence of a majority of such number shall be sufficient and shall be required in its exercise.

The Selectboard responded to these allegations by stating that:  “The Town Administrator has the authority under his contract to work on behalf of the Selectboard.  This includes contacting the Town Attorney for advice and to draft bond language for the Selectboard’s consideration. Mr. Rude’s contact with the Town Attorney in no way violates the Open Meeting Law.”

The receipt below is evidence that Guilford’s Town Administrator, Peder Rude, spent taxpayer funds when he contacted the town lawyer. This was done without the Selectboard’s authorization. The Receipt also shows that the lawyer was instructed to add language to the Library Ballot before the funds were revealed to the public in an open meeting. Both instances required allocating taxpayer funds outside of a duly warned meeting and are thus violations of 1 V.S.A. §312(g)

1 V.S.A. §312(g) reads in its entirety as follows:

The provisions of this subchapter shall not apply to site inspections for the purpose of assessing damage or making tax assessments or abatements, clerical work, or work assignments of staff or other personnel. Routine, day-to-day administrative matters that do not require action by the public body may be conducted outside a duly warned meeting, provided that no money is appropriated, expended, or encumbered.

There are more than a dozen instances where the Town Administrator, Peder Rude, and the Selectboard Chairman, Richard Wizasky have spent taxpayer funds seeking legal advice outside of a duly warned meeting.

These instances have all been brought to the attention of the Guilford Selectboard as open meeting violations per 1 VSA 172 Joint Authority. My contention is that no individual Selectboard member may act on behalf of the Selectboard without having the Selectboards Joint approval, which can only be obtained by a vote in an open meeting.

In denial of that contested violation, the Selectboard claims the Town Administrator has the authority in his contract to work on behalf of the Selectboard.

1 VSA 312(g) clearly states that “routine, day to day administrative matters may be conducted outside a duly warned meeting, provided that no money is appropriated, expended or encumbered.”

  • Rude spent $192.50 in taxpayer funds seeking advice from the Town’s attorney outside of a Duly Warned Meeting. That Violates 1 VSA 312(g)
  • Chairman Wizansky improperly utilized the Town Administrator (A town Resource) to act on behalf of the library, he was a Trustee and The Treasurer of. This was a discussion with the bond bank about the feasibility of using recently discovered funds for the library addition. This was all done without the Selectboards Joint Authority which violates both 1 VSA 172 and 1 VSA 312(g).
  • Wizansky and Rude allocated taxpayer funds for the Town’s Law Firm to draft the revised bond language before the funds were disclosed to the public which violates both 1 VSA 312(g) and 1 VSA 172.

The specific cure.

It is requested that the Selectboard publicly acknowledge this scenario and explain why the actions taken were unlawful. This will help restore public trust while clarifying the mistake, so it doesn’t happen again.

It is also suggested that the Selectboard study the VLCT handbook and attend training, so they understand the Laws they are to work under.

From: Jason Herron <jbh512@msn.com>

Date: Wed, Oct 26, 2022 at 8:50 AM

Subject: Open Meeting Violation #7

To: Zon Eastes <zoneastes@guilfordvt.gov>

CC: Sheila Morse <help@guilfordvt.gov>

To the Chairman of Guilford’s Selectboard Zon Eastes,

Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314(b)(1) and as a Resident of Guilford I, Jason Herron, am providing the public body this written notice that alleges a specific violation of this subchapter and requests a specific cure of such violation.

Regarding the Selectboards Denial of Open Meeting Violation #3

The Guilford Selectboard claimed that Vermont Statute 1 VSA 172 (Joint Authority) was not violated because “Mr. Eastes is authorized as a Selectboard member to seek advice from the Town Attorney without approval of the full board, and this has no implication on the Open Meeting Law.

The Selectboard’s reasoning for that denial REQUIRES that I now invoke 1 VSA 312(g) as additional evidence to the original allegations.

1 VSA 312(g) states that “routine, day to day administrative matters may be conducted outside a duly warned meeting, provided that no money is appropriated, expended or encumbered.”

Specific Violation – The receipt below is evidence that Chairman Eastes spent $35.00 in taxpayer funds, seeking advice from Guilford’s Town attorney. Those funds were allocated to the law firm by Eastes Outside of a Duly Warned Meeting, which is a violation of 1 VSA 312(g).

Specific Violation – Chairman Eastes violated 1 VSA 172 when, acting on behalf of the Selectboard, he contacted the Town’s law firm without their Joint Authority.

1 VSA 312(g) explains why the basis for the Selectboard’s original denial is erroneous and must be reconsidered.

The Selectboard has also failed to address several other allegations in their original decision. Since the Selectboard is the Head of Agency in this matter, if the Selectboard’s determination is appealed, the Court will want a clear understanding of how the Selectboard is interpreting these accusations.

The questions below, that are written in bold, all require a response from the Selectboard. This is to ensure the Court has a clear understanding of the events that transpired if an appeal becomes necessary.

On May 9th, 2022, Jason Herron was on a regular selectboard meeting agenda to discuss Guilford’s Conflict of Interest policy. During that meeting, he was refused an opportunity to participate in two agenda items concerning Public Document Requests. Herron was also silenced using a premeditated scheme by Selectboard Chairman Zon Eastes during Herron’s allotted agenda time. Here is the link to that meeting. An account of what transpired is outlined below and began at the 50:00-minute mark.

The Selectboard granted themselves 5 minutes to discuss recent Public Document Requests. At the end of those five minutes, the public was allowed to speak and the selectboard responded to their questions and comments. However, when Herron tried asking about a Document Request, without hearing any questions, the Selectboard said they planned to address his questions during the next agenda item. That statement inferred to the public that the next agenda item was about a specific Document request that was made by Herron. The Selectboard then refused to hear questions from Herron during this period of public discussion. Does the selectboard deny they refused to hear questions from Jason Herron during the public discussion period of the agenda item just mentioned?

The Selectboard then allotted themselves 8 minutes to address a specific document request Herron had made. They started off that 8-minute presentation by stating there would be no public discussion following it. During that statement, Eastes even invoked Herron’s name, but still would not let him respond. Does the Selectboard deny that Eastes invoked Jason Herron’s name? Does the Selectboard deny that they would not allow public discussion after their statement?

Herron was also the only one who was timed during the entire meeting. He was given a predetermined 5 minutes to address his agenda item. Since he was not allowed to participate in the two previous discussions about Document Requests, he put his agenda item (Conflict-of-Interest) aside. He was forced to clarify all the accusatory misstatements the selectboard had just made about his and other Document Requests during their combined 13-minute presentations. Was Herron the only one who was alerted, by an alarm, that their allotted time had expired during the meeting in Question?

When five minutes were up, an alarm sounded, and Herron was cut off in mid-sentence. Herron was not given a reasonable opportunity to discuss his agenda item because he was forced to Defend himself from the Selectboard’s accusations. When several members of the community offered to donate their time, so Herron could finish his presentation, the selectboard refused and took a 10-minute recess. Does the selectboard deny they took a recess immediately after several residents offered to donate their time for Herron to continue his presentation?

Earlier that same day, on May 9th, Eastes used taxpayer funds to seek advice from the Town’s lawyer without first discussing that decision in an open meeting. That action is a violation of 1 VSA 312(g) and 1 VSA 172 Joint Authority. The conversation Eastes had with the Town’s law firm, was regarding a “potential for altercation at SB meeting and ability to call for recess without a vote.” Does the Selectboard deny Eastes asked the Town’s law firm if he had the ability to call for a recess without a vote?

Herron also asked the selectboard several direct questions, but they refused to respond. Prior to the meeting, Eastes had sent an email to Herron stating that he should expect “friendly ears, but sure silence from us.” Does the Selectboard deny this email was written?

Specific Violation – Members of the public have the right to participate in public meetings. Specifically, public bodies must give members of the public a reasonable opportunity to express their opinions on matters being considered by the body at an open meeting. 1 V.S.A. § 312(h).

Herron was omitted from participation in the public discussion of two separate agenda items. He was also not given a reasonable opportunity to express his opinions on matters being considered by the Selectboard during that same meeting. The Selectboard also refused Herron’s right to participate by refusing to answer any of his questions.

Specific Violation – The following persons can be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined up to $500:

• A person who knowingly and intentionally participates in the wrongful exclusion of any person or persons from any meeting. 1 V.S.A. § 314(a).

On May 9th, Chairman Eastes contacted Guilford’s Town lawyer asking if it was legal to call for a recess without a vote. Later that very evening, immediately after several residents of Guilford offered to donate their time for Herron to finish his presentation, Eastes called for that recess without a vote. 

The specific cure:

It is requested that the Selectboard publicly acknowledge this scenario and explain why the actions taken by the elected officials involved were unlawful. This will help restore public trust while clarifying the mistake, so it doesn’t happen again.

It is also suggested that the Selectboard be required to read the VLCT Selectboard Handbook and attend training, so they understand the Laws they are to work under.

182000-00001 – General Matters

Town of Guilford – General Matters

DateAttorneyDescriptionQuantityRateTotal
05/03/2022KESPhone call from Zon Eastes re: attorney/client privilege; email Zon Eastes re: same.0.20$175.00$35.00
05/09/2022KESPhone call from Zon Eastes re: potential for altercation at SB meeting and ability to call for recess without vote.0.20$175.00$35.00
05/31/2022BPMReview “PRR Summary” document, legal research re: public records act issues, draft notes to file.3.10$200.00$620.00