Friday, February 8, 2013

Some Elected Officials Have a Conscience

Too bad certain elected officials here don't have one.

Dummerston Selectboard chairman to resign; cites conflict of interest 

By MIKE FAHER / Reformer Staff


 Friday February 8, 2013 DUMMERSTON -- The chairman of Dummerston's Selectboard says he will resign following a dispute at a Wednesday meeting over his ties to the town's highway department.
Lewis White, a five-year veteran of the Selectboard, maintained that he never has shown any favoritism to the department, which is led by his cousin, Lee Chamberlin.
Several other town officials agreed, and they urged White to reconsider his decision. But White on Thursday said he won't risk the town dealing with allegations of impropriety every time a road-related issue arises.
"This will be thrown in my face," White said. "We're not going to have that. I'm not going to deal with that."
White said he will submit a letter of resignation within days. He also said he does not expect to accept a Selectboard position if he is re-elected at the upcoming Town Meeting -- though he did not completely rule out that possibility.
The highway-department issue came to a head during a sometimes-heated Selectboard meeting Wednesday at the community center in West Dummerston.
But the dispute has roots in a long-running disagreement over a September decision of the town's Development Review Board.
The review board denied a site-plan approval and variances requested by Schoolhouse Road residents John and Lori Thibault for a fence standing more than 6 feet high, a deck, and an above-ground pool.
The Thibaults have appealed the board's decision in Vermont
Environmental Court. And there has been ongoing debate about whether and how the town should be represented in those proceedings. It's become clear that some Selectboard members thought the review board's decision was unfair. In one example, Selectman Tom Bodett said during a Nov. 28 meeting that he felt the ruling was "overly restrictive."
"I thought it overstepped ... I didn't feel I could defend it," Bodett said at the time.
In an interview Thursday, Bodett said he since has gained a better understanding of the board's decision.
"But I still think the perception of that case is doing great damage to the overall perception of our planning and zoning process," Bodett said.
The criticism led Herb Rest, the review board's chairman, to read a pointed letter into the record at Wednesday's Selectboard meeting. Rest said his friendship with a neighbor of the Thibaults had no bearing on the board's review, pointing out that the neighbor appeared at an Aug. 15 hearing but did not testify.
"I failed to conclude that I should have recused myself in this matter," Rest wrote.
Rest added that now that the neighbor in question has filed to appear in the Thibault court appeal, he has withdrawn "my candidacy as a town-appointed resource to the court in this matter" to avoid any appearance of a conflict.
He also said continued criticisms from some Selectboard members are "undermining the functionality of the DRB process," and he objected to any allegations of impropriety.
"I reviewed all of the DRB decisions rendered in the last approximately 18 months. I will state categorically that there is no bias suggested and that the decisions consistently reflect the will of the citizens of Dummerston as expressed in their zoning bylaws," Rest wrote.
"I, quite frankly, am bewildered by any contrary conclusion of the Selectboard if they too researched their allegations."
That led resident Jody Normandeau to angrily denounce the Selectboard, saying Rest and review board member Lew Sorenson had been unfairly targeted.
"I have never seen such abuse of another public body," Normandeau said.
She also pointed out the familial relationship between White and Chamberlin. For White to raise a conflict-of-interest question, Normandeau said, "is like a pot calling the kettle black."
White noted that he had recused himself from any involvement in Chamberlin's hiring. But also said he would leave the Selectboard if residents perceive a conflict of interest.
"If it's seen that way, it's seen that way," White said, adding, "this will be my last meeting."
Later in the meeting, other Selectboard members, Town Clerk Pamela McFadden and meeting attendees -- including Normandeau -- asked White to remain on the board.
"This is an inexperienced board," Selectboard member Steve Glabach said. "We need your experience."
But White said much of the town's business is highway-related, and he said he didn't want his vote to be a deciding vote on such issues.
"That shouldn't happen," he said. "So, it won't happen."
For the resignation to be effective, White will have to submit a letter. The Selectboard then would appoint someone to fill that position until Town Meeting, McFadden said Thursday.
White's departure also would complicate the upcoming election. While there are two candidates for a three-year term, White is the only listed candidate for a two-year term on the board and it is too late for his name to be removed.
If he is elected but does not want the position, White would have to resign again.
On Thursday, White said he likely will search for someone else to seek the office.
"I would like to find somebody who wants to run as a write-in and support him," he said.
Bodett, who also is leaving the board as his term expires, said he hopes White reconsiders. He echoed others in saying he never has seen evidence of bias.
On highway-department matters, "if anything, I have seen (White) exercise more caution than the rest us," Bodett said.
Bodett, who was out of town and absent from Wednesday's meeting, said he regrets any role he played in escalating the dispute with the DRB. And he called for a careful re-examination of what truly constitutes a conflict of interest.
"I would like to see everybody take a breather," he said. "Is this really serving the town? No."


Anonymous said...

Speaking of other towns, do you think other towns would allow the W&WWT Administrative Assistant, who shares an office with the Tax Collector, in the town hall on a Sunday afternoon? Is it even legal?

What's going on now? said...

Is there anyone who doesn't have a key to the Town Hall? Why do so many town employees have keys and access to this building at all hours and on days of the week when it's closed? Who's watching the hen house? There's too much monkey business going on for my liking.

Anonymous said...

If the employee that sends out the bills cant be the same person who collects the money, how does sharing an office work?

Anonymous said...

You are so right, We cant have this going on. We must build 3 new seperate offices with locks, What do you think this will cost?. Thats ok Im sure we can add it to next years budget as a warrant article, Who has their pencil sharpened and ready to go?

Is this where your going?

Think a little before you bring up stupid comments that will cost us money.

trully fed up with it all said...

Actually we don't need any more office space, we need less employees and give them more to do than sit around reading ( like Jim ) or walking the halls ( like Margaret, Danielle, and several others ). Responsible, well qualified, duty minded individuals and not the carefree spirits we have in these positions now. Not one of them besides Jim was voted into their positions, they are all hand picked cronies of the select board, loyal to the board and not the people in town. Less than 25 of these employees cost us over a million and a half every year in tax dollars; that's outrageous and totally ridiculous and it all needs to come to an end if we are going to survive as a town.

Anonymous said...

Gomer Pyle famous word, “surpraas, surpraas, surpraas”! What! Your accusing our town employees of going into the town hall on Sundays of doing dishonest, dastardly deeds with the confidential information on record about the citizens of Winchester! You can rest assured these people have total immunity
freedom from responsibility or punishment. Look at the state’s attorney two years ago they turned their backs on the Winchester voters, the courts have ruled repeatedly on the side of the institutions aka: the town of Winchester almost every time, this allows the selectmen to operate with an exemption from prosecution. It is all about themselves!
The only place things can be corrected is at the voting booth! When you have low voter turn out, plus with the low information voters,cronies and special interest making decision that effect the majority,. They must learn elections have consequences that effect your rights and your wallet.

Only In Winchester said...

Its not about dishonesty, its about the way we run this town.

We! We! All the way to the bank! said...

Only in Winchester said; “Its not about dishonesty, its about the way we run this town“.

One can not talk about the way "we" run the town without mentioning dishonesty. Your use of the word "we" tells me your one of the "we" and as you see it, "we" do not find a problem with the way "we" run the town.

Hello dingle berry! I am not part of your "we". We have another we it's called, we pay the taxes payers. I know the way your "we" and your cronies "we" friends are dishonest, corrupt and out right crooks and the honest we tax payer who pickup the tab for your corruption and mistakes you make. We think the “we” you refer to should be behind bars with all the other “we‘s“ just like you..

Anonymous said...

So what was that Administrative Assistant, who shares an office with the Tax Collector, doing in the town hall on a Sunday afternoon?
That is the question. Wo was it? and why?

Anonymous said...

It seems everyone would like to think some kind of "conspiracy" or underhanded stuff going on.

But my guess? expect your water bill in the mail this week.

It couldnt be something that simple...could it?

Get Real said...

The fact of the matter is the Town hall is CLOSED on Sundays. That means NO ONE is supposed to be there. Employees work Monday - Thursday ( well, some do ) There is no line item in the town budget for overtime of town employees, so who authorizes this crap if that is/was the case and why can't she do her work on scheduled days of business?
Besides that fact, why does a town employee have a key to the Town Hall? I believe someone has already asked just how many people have access to this building after hours.

Anonymous said...

Get Real said...
The fact of the matter is the Town hall is CLOSED on Sundays. That means NO ONE is supposed to be there.

Are these rules you are stating written down or printed somewhere?
or are you just assuming and making these up?

Last I knew the person in question was part time with no benefits so I don't see how your worry about overtime comes to play.

Winchester has its problems for sure, but all the complaining and finger pointing about nonsense subjects like this detract from our real problems

What I'm trying to say is keep your eye on the ball and Focus...These b.s. comments are not even coming close to helping solve our real issues.

go away foolish person said...

To the above person;
Does it not say on the doors to the building.. Hours of operation Mon-Thurs? Worse yet a freaking part time employee with keys .. As for your comments that the above commenter's were bs, your opinion was at least moronic at best.
Yes, there are bigger issues to concern ourselves with, one being jerks like you who vote.

I'm upset too said...

That idiot who posted at 11:44am doesn't have a clue and is always posting nonsense on the blog. He/she is always commenting in defense of the town, the style and lack of capital letters gives him/her away all the time. Wouldn't surprise me to find out he/she is a town employee of a relative of one. Why shouldn't people be upset that a part time employee is at the town hall doing ??? who knows what, after hours and I'm sure getting paid for it; otherwise the selectman would have gotten involved and reported her to the police. So 11:44am commenter, go find some other sand box to play in, we have a right to be upset.

Anonymous said...

Keep wallowing in nonsense, I don't care, If you want to worry and focus on petty problem's like our water bills getting worked on a Sunday go ahead, its your wasted time.

I'm more worried about a select-board who forgets who is exactly footing all the bills for this town!
I worry about town employees who don't understand what its like to go with out raises or having to pay a bigger part of their own health insurance!
I worry about a planning board that is dysfunctional and keeping future business's away!
I worry about some members of our planning board that are costing us tens of thousands$ in legal fees!
I worry about the list of Idiots who think they running for select-board is going to help us.!
I worry about a school system that is failing no matter how much tax money we through at it!
I worry about A HDC board that has no clue about what they are doing or why we even have one to begin with!
I worry about The fact that our voters forget who actually decides how our town should run and who should be responsible for policies and regulations, That is us in case you didn't know!
I worry about people getting lost on so much non important non sense they cant focus on the real problems.
I do not worry about my lack of capital letters or sentence structure!!
And I dont worry when our water bills get worked on!!!!
I can go on and on but I think this gets my point across.
And dont mistake me encouraging you to focus on the real problems as me defending the town!!!!

??????? said...

Any employees that's in the town hall and not on the clock, is or is not covered by insurance, if they slip and fall and bang there head or snap an ankle? Should anyone but the town clerk or the tax collector be in the tax office all alone?

Enough Said said...

Feb.11th-3:02PM,poster might want to check out The Preamble to the US Constitution"We the People".

Anonymous said...

The selectmen do not have a spending' problem. They have a 'running-out-of-other-people's-money' problem.

What I worry about is....... when the tax payers allow 50 registered voters or so to show up as the town's populist (supporter of ordinary people: an advocate of the rights and interests of ordinary people) then they are allow as representatives of the People's at deliberative session and dictate to the majority of registered voter some 3900 or so how much and what they are willing to spend of your tax money .

What I worry about is......when 21% of the registered voter are allowed to tell the other 79% how much their tax bills will be for the next fiscal year.

What I worry about is how…..the selectmen manipulate who get to be seated on what boards.

What I worry about…… majority is allowing the minority to spending this town into the abyss.

What I worry about is……. When someone tries to make a difference by running for office, someone they might not like personally, good or bad, smart or stupid but are willing to stand up for change they are belittle by calling them names.

What I worry about is....we run out of these bold people and there is no more of them then all we have left is spinless people like yourselves.

same old, same old said...

The main problem with this town and most towns in rural areas is voter apathy; no one gives a sh#t what goes on at town hall until they need to go there or until they get their water/sewer and tax bills. The morons we have in office get voted in because the same people we are complaining about have the support of a handful of supporters who vote them in each year. These supporters benefit from having this group run this town like some private club, no rules, come and go as they please and all of them answer to no one but themselves. Go along to get along is the rule.

Past Deliberative and Elections prove just this, hardly anyone goes and less than a fifth of registered voters in this town make all of the decisions for all of us, budget, warrants and regulation changes for zoning and planning. Same with the school, again it's all teachers and their families and friends at deliberative adding thousands to spending and that budget reflects it.Between the 11% increase in the Town Budget and the School asking for another 3% increase and more hires, we'll all be looking at triple digit tax increases this coming year.

APATHY ..Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern, indifference - unconcern - torpor - listlessness
This describes the voters of Winchester

How many times do you all have to get hit in the head before you wake up?

My Fault said...

Maybe if the water and sewer administrative Assistant spent less time ,out and about, she wouldn't have to play catchup on Sunday. Its my fault, i could have made a phone call, but I didn't see any notice anywhere about when the school meeting was moved too, not that it would have made any difference. I think the school board is doing an OK job, which is refreshing for Winchester.

Anonymous said...

ANOTHER 3 day work week coming up for the chosen few.Think about that as you are driving to work Saturday and Monday.