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Selectboard Vacant Position Rebuttal to Private Citizen Howard Fairman

To the Citizens of the Town of Putney,

At the 10/21/2020 Selectboard meeting, which I attended, Mr. Howard Fairman took it upon himself to set a time and date at which time candidates for the vacant Selectboard seat would publicly present themselves.

Mr. Fairman does not have the authority, as a private citizen, to do this. What he (and you) can do, if he feels that the process is not working, is to rally 5% of his fellow citizens and petition for a special meeting to elect a candidate.(17 V.S.A. § 2643)

Furthermore, while he claims that the word “forthwith” set in the statute is an obvious time frame that our Selectboard has now gone past because “courts…refer to commonly understood meanings of words,” in practice elected officials do the best they can with the legislative intent of the statutes that govern them, and the Court gives substantial sway to legislative intent. For instance, during a States Statute course I recently attended, a fellow Lister from another Town recounted a story in which a member of the public recently demanded that their Listers’ office give them a huge amount of information through a Freedom of Information Act “within three business days,” yet, their Listers’ office was only open for a few hours one day a week. Practically, that meant that the “three business days” would actually be “three weeks” –at best, assuming they ignored their other duties. No reasonable Court would impose a penalty on their obvious inability to comply with the public demand given their limited availability. Similarly, a legislative body, which as anyone knows moves forward at a glacially slow pace, might interpret the word “forthwith” to mean “before the next election” or “before we recess for summer” and probably crafted this language with their own glacial movement in mind. For a board that meets for a few hours every two weeks, seven weeks delay in an appointment should not be unexpected, especially given the derth of willing candidates to fill any of the many boards which currently have vacancies here in Putney. Until and unless Mr. Fairman successfully brings a case to the Vermont Supreme Court in the hopes that that Court will decide the legislative intent of the word “forthwith” set forth in this particular statute in his favor, his interpretation of its meaning is merely a personal definition and in any case still does not convey any right to him as a private citizen to hijack the statutory power of the duly elected Selectboard to appoint a candidate of their own choosing in their own way.

While I appreciate and affirm Mr. Fairman’s basic position that a fair amount of confusion and consternation has resulted because of the failure of the current Selectboard to enact any meaningful public process to appoint the next Selectboard member, I disavow Mr. Fairman’s attempt to usurp the Selectboard’s role, and will not respond to his call to appear at the next board meeting specifically to address my candidacy for the vacant seat unless requested to do so by a current Selectboard member, who are the only persons authorized to do so. I encourage the other interested candidates to ignore Mr. Fairman’s demand, and wait for same.