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Selectboard Minutes, 01.25.2023

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

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: 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 (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.