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Selectboard Minutes, 10.12.2022

GUILFORD SELECTBOARD MEETING
Wednesday, October 12, 2022, 6:30 pm, 236 School Road, Guilford, VT

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

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

PRESENT in person: Austin (BCTV), Connie Burton, Mary Wissman, Steve Lembke, Lyle Howe, Dolores Clark; 

PRESENT via Zoom: Roberta Bremmer, Christina Belogour, Jason Herron, Anna Klein

Call to Order at 6:31 pm                            Estimated Time

Rules of Procedure: Zon shared the Rules of Procedure

Welcoming of Public – Community Comment Period            10 minutes

  1. Mary Wissman spoke on behalf of the members of the BCA and Guilford voters. The BCA met on 10.11.22 to discuss how to remedy the issue of the Justice of the Peace ballot. The BCA requested that the Selectboard approve (a)  issuing a new ballot to replace the one previously created by the Town Clerk and (b) the costs for doing so. BCA members will work with the Town Clerk to explain the new ballot and send it to all residents well before election day.
  2. Sheila Morse mentioned that the Town Clerk will open the Town Office, solely for payment of taxes, on 10.14 and 10.15, and noted that no other Town business would be transacted during those hours.

Changes to Agenda Order: discuss “ D. JP mailing” after approval of the minutes.

Approval of Minutes                                2 minutes

  1. Regular Meeting of 9.26.22
    1. ACTION: Michael moved to approve the minutes as written. Rusty seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
  2. JP Ballot Mailing                        5 minutes
    1. ACTION: Zon moved to support the BCA actions to remedy the JP ballot by sending out a new ballot for all voters in Town. Verandah seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.

Updates & Discussions

  1. Highway                                    5 minutes
    1. Hinesburg Road paving and gravel shoulders completed; Algiers Village paving completed, hoping to get School Road and Center Road shoulders completed in the coming few days; tires have been ordered for three trucks; trying to complete the mowing jobs and cleaning leaves from the ditches; also the crew is still ditching and will continue to do so until the ground freezes.
    2. Center line and edge painting on Center Road and Hinesburg Road – will cost $.20/ft for double edge lines and $.075 per foot for each edge painting.  
    3. ACTION: Zon moved to authorize painting the center lines of the newly paved roads at a cost not to exceed $7,500 (about 4.5 miles). Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
  2. Guilford Central School Leadership Committee    TABLED         8  minutes

Old Business

  1. Declaration of Inclusion                        5 minutes
    1. signed
  2. BDCC/SeVEDS Letter of Support                5 minutes
    1. signed   

New Business

  1. Reallocation of Funds: VT Bond Bank loan; legal fees        5 minutes
    1. In attending to the budgetary health of the Town a number of issues have come to light in the past weeks. he final payment of the principal on the $195K bond fund was not included in the FY2023 budget approved by residents. The board needs to determine the source of funds for the amount owed: $19,793.28. The Vermont Bond Bank counseled that the Town may apply any balance in the fund to the final payment. Doing so would reduce funds available to cover the cost of a project approved by the voters, which also meets the terms of the Fund to $175,206.72.
      1. ACTION: Zon moved that the SB approve the use of the bond principal to pay down the remaining amount owed on the loan, contingent on confirming that the use of the funds in this way is allowed by Vermont law. Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
    2. Legal fees are well over budget. Zon presented the background of both FY 2022 and the current Q1 of FY2023. 
      1. ACTION: Richard moved to authorize the use of Fund 07 Reserve Fund General to cover the cost of future legal payments in FY 2023. Verandah seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
    3. In recognition that a substantial portion of the excess legal fees are as a result of actions on the part of Jason Herron, Jason stated that he was again offering to the board to enter into mediation under the guidance of VLCT. Zon undertook to explore with the Town’s attorneys and VLCT how this process might work. The stated goal of all parties is to keep legal costs to a minimum.
  2. Appointment of Assistant Treasurer                5 minutes
    1. Zon explained that the above discussion is indicative of a number of financial issues that Guilford has worked to resolve over the past months. He noted that Penny is retiring from both Clerk and Treasurer positions in March 2023. In consideration of her recommendation to the SB to appoint a qualified treasurer following her retirement, he stated that it’s in the best interest of the SB to consider how to act on her recommendation, and to determine how to recruit an appropriate candidate who can take on the Treasurer responsibility. Penny’s statement in the forthcoming Gazette reads: “the underlying fundamentals and challenges of municipal finances have become increasingly complex. That trend will probably continue. Guilford needs a Treasurer with expertise in municipal accounting and finances. To that end, I feel that appointing a qualified Treasurer would be the best course of action for Guilford.”   
    2. ACTION: Richard moved to put the question of appointing a treasurer on the March 2023 Town Meeting Warrant on the ballot. Rusty seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
    3. ACTION: Zon moved that Penny and Sheila, in consultation with VLCT, draft a Treasurer job description for Selectboard review, whereby the Town treasurer could appoint an interim treasurer. Michael seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
    4. The goal is to define the position, recruit an interim Assistant Town Treasurer, hire and train that person, in advance of Penny’s retirement so that, if the measure passes at Town Meeting, Treasurer responsibilities are  handed off to a competent person in a smooth transition.
  1. Open Meeting Law Violation Allegations                10 minutes
    1. Zon read the allegations and responded to them as advised by the Town’s attorneys.
    2. ACTION: Re Violation # 1 of OML: Zon moved and Verandah seconded that the Selectboard determine that no violation of the Open Meeting Law has occurred and that no cure is necessary. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.
    3. ACTION: Re Violation # 2 of OML: Zon moved and Michael seconded that the Selectboard determined that no violation of the Open Meeting Law has occurred and that no cure is necessary. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 
    4. ACTION: Re Violation # 3 of OML: Zon moved and Richard seconded that the Selectboard determined that no violation of the Open Meeting Law has occurred and that no cure is necessary. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 
    5. ACTION: Re Violation # 4 of OML: Zon moved and Verandah seconded that the Selectboard determined that no violation of the Open Meeting Law has occurred and that no cure is necessary. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried.  
  2. Finance
    1. Warrants                                  
Payroll – WE 10.02.22$$6,101.07
Payroll – WE 10.09.22$5,403.83
Expense Warrant #2207$22,978.00
Expense Warrant #FW7$88.00
TOTAL$34,570.90
  1. 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 NONE
  2. Communications NONE. 
  3. Executive Session to discuss personnel issue 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 that premature knowledge of employment discussions could potentially put the Town at significant disadvantage. Richard seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. None abstained. Motion carried.
    2. ACTION: Zon moved and Richard seconded that the Selectboard move into Executive Session per 1 V.S.A. § 313 (a)(3) inviting Sheila Morse and Dan Zumbruski to participate, to discuss personnel issues. All were in favor. None were opposed. None abstained. Motion carried. The board entered into Executive Session at 8:25 p.m.
    3. ACTION: Zon moved and Michael seconded to exit Executive Session at 8:43 p.m. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. 
    4. ACTION: Zon moved to authorize Dan Zumbruski to offer the open job of Road Crew member to the candidate he recommended to the Selectboard. Rusty seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. Richard requested that the candidate’s references be on file in his personnel file before final confirmation of employment.  
    5. ACTION: Zon moved to amend Sheila Morse’s contract to permit up to 80 hours in a two-week period, in recognition of the increased burden of carrying out the tasks of the Assistant Town Administrator. Verandah seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. Sheila disagreed with Jason’s characterizations of her workload.
  4. Action Summary from Previous Meeting: BDSS-SeVEDS letter of support; Declaration of Inclusion. (Decision to accept donation of color printer still pending)
  5. Actions Taken: Approve BCA request; approve a not-to-exceed cost for line painting; approve source of funds to pay final bond payment and legal fees in excess of budget; approve a question for the Town Meeting warrant regarding appointing a Treasurer, and begin to draft a Treasurer job description; determination of no Open Meeting Law violations; payment of warrants; authorization to hire for the open Road Crew position; authorization to amend Sheila’s contract. 
  6. Actions to be Taken – contact VLCT regarding mediation; draft Treasurer Job Description; amend Sheila’s contract; confirm new employee references and complete on-boarding process.
  7. Adjournment
    1. ACTION  Richard moved to adjourn. Rusty seconded. All were in favor. None were opposed. None abstained. Motion carried. Meeting was adjourned at 8:51 p.m.

Meeting video – https://www.brattleborotv.org/guilford-selectboard/guilford-sb-mtg-101222 

Next Selectboard Meeting: Monday, 10.24.22 at 6:30 pm  

Zon Eastes, Chair     _____________________________________

Michael Becker    _____________________________________

Rusty Marine        _____________________________________

Verandah Porche    _____________________________________

Richard Wizansky     ____________________________________

ATTACHMENTS: Open Meeting Law Violation Charges and Responses


Jason Herron
Wed, Oct 5, 7:13 AM (7 days ago)

to Zon, me, Peder

To the Chairman of Guilford’s Selectboard Zon Eastes,

Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314v(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.

Violation #1

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 after they were discovered. 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. According to Rude’s statement, Wizanksy used town assets, the Guilford Town Administrator and the paid consultant to the library addition, to discuss reallocating 195,000 in recently discovered public funds to the library addition. These funds were then earmarked to the library addition where Wizansky held the roles of Treasure and Trustee. 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.

or the Guilford selectboard met as a quorum privately and authorized this meeting in violation of the Vermont Open Meeting Law 

Please explain if this was an individual Selectboard member acting on his own or the Selectboard meeting privately to authorize this meeting.

Violation #2

The receipt below shows that Guilford’s Town Administrator, Peder Rude, spent taxpayer funds when he contacted the town lawyer without first being given authorization at an open public meeting. It also shows that the lawyer was instructed to add language to the Library Ballot without it being first discussed in an open public meeting.

The town lawyer was tasked with revising the library ballot article language to include 195,000 in newly discovered bond money. This was done without discussion in an open meeting. This interaction happened on December 27th just before the selectboard’s scheduled open meeting that very evening. The December 27th selectboard meeting was the first time the 195,000 of unused bond money was disclosed to the public and it was already earmarked for the library.

Again, the selectboard either met privately to authorize this discussion between the town administrator and the town lawyer or an individual selectboard member orchestrated this on their own; please explain.

The specific cure:

It is requested that the Selectboard publicly acknowledge these scenarios 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 be required to attend training offered by the VLCT, so they understand the Laws they are to work under.

 Jason Herron Wed, Oct 5, 2:21 PM (7 days ago) 
 to Zon, Peder, me 

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.

On May 9th 2022 I was on a regular selectboard meeting agenda to discuss Guilford’s Conflict of Interest policy. During that meeting, I was refused an opportunity to participate in two agenda items. I was also silenced using a premeditated scheme by the Selectboard Chairman Zon Eastes. 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 allotted themselves 5 minutes to discuss document requests. At the end of those five minutes, the public was allowed to speak and the selectboard responded to their comments and questions. However, when I tried asking about my document request, they said they planned to address it during the next agenda item and refused to take my questions.

The Selectboard then allowed themselves 8 minutes to address my document request. They started off that agenda item by stating there would be no public discussion following their statement. During that presentation Eastes invoked my name, but still would not let me respond.

I was then timed and given a predetermined 5 minutes to try and clarify all the misstatements the selectboard had made during their combined 13-minute presentations. When those five minutes were up, an alarm sounded, and I was cut off in mid-sentence. When several members of the community offered to donate their time, so I could slow down and finish my presentation, the selectboard refused and took a 10-minute recess.

Earlier that very day on May 9th, Eastes used taxpayer funds to seek advice from the town lawyer without first discussing that decision in an open meeting. That conversation was in regard to a “potential for altercation at SB meeting and ability to call for recess without a vote.” That is more than enough evidence to prove what transpired that evening was a premeditated scheme.

I also asked the selectboard several direct questions, but they refused to respond. This was not a complete surprise because prior to the meeting, Eastes had emailed me and wrote “the Selectboard would have open ear but closed lips.”

This is my complaint:

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). I was omitted from public discussion on two separate agenda items and was not given a reasonable opportunity to express my opinions during my allotted agenda time.

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). Zon Eastes contacted the town lawyer asking if it was legal to silence a resident of Guilford by calling for a recess without a vote. When he wanted me silenced, Eastes called for that recess. 

Eastes also violated Open Meetings Law by either acting without the Selectboards Joint authority or the Selectboard met privately and unlawfully authorized Eastes to meet with the town lawyer to discuss this topic on their behalf.

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 attend training offered by the VLCT, so they understand the Laws they are to work under.

 Jason Herron Wed, Oct 5, 7:54 PM (7 days ago) 
 to Zon, Peder, me 

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.

In an attempt to ascertain the reason why previously unredacted invoices concerning the Guilford Free Library were now being redacted, I contacted three people by email. The Selectboard Chairman, Zon Eastes, the Town Administrator, Peder Rude, and the newly appointed Assistant Town Administrator, Sheila Morse, were all attached to the entirety of this conversation.

The Assistant Town Administrator Morse responded to my inquiry on behalf of the selectboard, by stating:

Our attorney redacted this information prior to submitting the invoice for payment.

The Selectboard and the town attorney determined that the information is covered by

attorney-client privilege.

● This pertains to both receipts.

The Selectboard holds the privilege and thus are responsible for the denial.

To the best of our knowledge, we are not withholding any other information and we consider

the request satisfied to the extent possible.

Morse’s response says this is from the: “Town Administrator, on behalf of the Guilford Selectboard”. However, Morse could not provide the meeting minutes where this topic was discussed, and a determination was made by the Selectboard.

Morse also stated that, The Selectboard and the town attorney determined that the information is covered by attorney-client privilege. Yet again, Morse could not provide the meeting minutes where this topic was discussed and provided no evidence that this determination was ever made by the Selectboard.

Morse then continues by stating that, The Selectboard holds the privilege and are thus responsible for the denial. Morse claims the Selectboard is responsible for the denial, and issued a decision, but could not provide the meeting minutes where this decision was made.

To conclude, a Selectboard member, or members, either colluded with Morse outside of an open meeting and convinced her to inappropriately respond on their behalf, or Morse acted on her own and spoke on behalf of the Selectboard without any coercion. Either way, the methods of these decisions are a violation of Vermont’s Open Meetings Law. Eastes was attached to this entire email exchange. So, at a minimum, he is intimately aware of Morses’ response on behalf of the Selectboard he is also the Chairman of.

The specific cure:

It is requested that the Selectboard publicly acknowledge this scenario and explain why the actions taken by the appointed and/or 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 and the Appointed Assistant Town Administrator be required to attend training offered by the VLCT, so they understand the Laws they are beholden to.

For 10.12.22 Selectboard Meeting

Prepared by Monaghan Safar Ducham PLLC 10.7.22

Allegations of Open Meeting Law Violations

1)      Allegation:  On October 5, 2022, Jason Herron alleged that Selectboard member Richard Wizansky violated the Open Meeting Law by meeting with Town Administrator Peder Rude, consultant Isaac Wagner, and representatives of the Vermont Bond Bank to discuss reallocating $195,000 in public funds to a library addition OR that the Selectboard violated the Open Meeting Law by meeting as a quorum privately to approve the meeting.

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.

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.  Additionally, the Selectboard did not meet as a quorum privately. 

The Selectboard has determined that no violation of the Open Meeting Law has occurred and that no cure is necessary. 

2)     Allegation:  On October 5, 2022, Jason Herron alleged that Town Administrator Peder Rude violated the Open Meeting Law by contacting the Town Attorney to discuss revising library bond language without Selectboard approval OR that the Selectboard violated the Open Meeting Law by meeting as a quorum privately to authorize Mr. Rude’s contact with the Town Attorney.

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.

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.  Additionally, the Selectboard did not meet as a quorum privately. 

The Selectboard has determined that no violation of the Open Meeting Law has occurred and that no cure is necessary. 

3)     Allegation: On October 5, 2022, Jason Herron alleged that the Selectboard violated the Open Meeting Law by refusing Mr. Herron a reasonable opportunity to speak at a May 9, 2022 public meeting, and that Selectboard Chair Zon Eastes violated the Open Meeting Law by consulting with the Town Attorney without Selectboard approval OR  that the Selectboard violated the Open Meeting Law by meeting as a quorum privately to authorize Mr. Eastes’ contact with the Town Attorney.

Selectboard 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.

As Mr. Herron acknowledges in his allegation, he was provided five minutes to address an agenda item that was included in the agenda at his request.  Five minutes is a standard and reasonable amount of time for a member of the public to be allowed to speak at an open meeting.  1 V.S.A. § 312(h) requires only that the public be provided a “reasonable opportunity” to express itself at an open meeting, and Mr. Herron was given such reasonable opportunity.   Additionally, Selectboard Chair Zon Eastes did not violate the Open Meeting Law in contacting the Town Attorney for advice.  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.  Additionally, the Selectboard did not meet as a quorum privately.

The Selectboard has determined that no violation of the Open Meeting Law has occurred and that no cure is necessary. 

4)     Allegation: On October 5, 2022, Jason Herron alleged that Assistant Town Administrator Sheila Morse violated the Open Meeting Law by responding to a public records request on behalf of the Selectboard without Selectboard approval, OR that the Selectboard as a whole, or certain Selectboard members violated the Open Meeting Law by colluding with Ms. Morse outside of an open meeting.

Selectboard 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.

Assistant Town Administrator Sheila Morse is authorized under her contract to act on behalf of the Selectboard and her response to a public records request is unrelated to the Open Meeting Law.  The Selectboard and/or its individual members did not collude with Ms. Morse outside of an open meeting – she acted independently in her response.  The Selectboard later independently denied the same public records request Mr. Herron refers to in his allegation. 

The Selectboard has determined that no violation of the Open Meeting Law has occurred and that no cure is necessary.