The Selectboard may reject petitions it considers outside the authority of voters, said Town Manager Barbara Sondag, reading from a 2005 decision issued by Vermont's Secretary of State, who said it's wise to consider whether the board will follow through on the advise of the voters before adding anything to the warning.
In addition, she said, "The town attorney has said he has no authority to draft an indictment."
Despite the questions over the legality of enforcing the indictment, two Selectboard members said it was important to honor the nearly 500 town voters who signed the petition by putting the indictment on the ballot.
While the town may not be able to enforce the indictment, said Selectboard member Richard Garant, "I don't believe that it's illegal for this to be passed by the town body or the voters. At the minimum, it would send a message." While it's not within the purview of the town attorney to actually draw up an arrest warrant to detain Bush and Cheney, "it sends a very strong message that has been lacking at the national level. It has to come from the grass roots."
"In the past, there have been
The drafters of the petition met with Bob Fisher, attorney of the town, she said, and asked for help in crafting the petition, said Sondag. At the time, he advised them the indictment wasn't legally enforceable, she said.
"How many more of these things do you want Brattleboro to become famous for?" asked Selectboard member Stephen Steidle, who said he did not support adding it to the ballot. The town doesn't have the authority to arrest the men, he said, adding, "It's illegal."
Steidle said the board should consider sending the message directly to its representatives in Congress, "but to have the town attorney prepare an indictment is ludicrous."
Town residents who attended the special meeting Friday afternoon urged the Selectboard to place the indictment on the ballot.
"Send a message to the rest of the world that we don't stand by the actions of our president," said Robin Rieske, adding she was proud to live in a town that would consider such an indictment. "When we do things like this, it rocks the world."
One town resident said when he first heard of the indictment, he thought it was "a little harebrained." But after seeing the international attention it was receiving, said Fric Spruyt, he had come around to supporting it.
"It is actually incredibly important," he said. "In the interest of honoring your constituency, I would ask you to put it on the ballot and see what happens."
He also suggested that Steidle and Selectboard Vice Chairman Dick DeGray, who eventually voted in opposition to placing the indictment on the town ballot, should abstain from casting their votes.
Addressing Steidle, he said "Steve, you have ignored the will of the citizens of Brattleboro. I urge you to consider standing aside this time."
Garant, Bouboulis and Selectboard Chairwoman Audrey Garfield voted in favor of placing the item on the ballot.
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.