Vernon town clerk's report raises concerns
VERNON — The Selectboard has called a special meeting Wednesday to review the town clerk's section of the annual Town Report over concerns it might cross into electioneering.
Residents taking to the Vernon Vermont Facebook page started voicing concerns about it on Saturday night. What they found troubling was the town clerk's report, which reads a bit like campaign literature for a candidate who is currently working in the office.
Vernon's town policy states that town employees may be a candidate for election on Town Meeting Day "provided that their position with the Town is not used in any way to further their candidacy." The election is March 1.
"The pursuit of political activities while working, or through the use of Town facilities, is strictly prohibited," the policy stated.
The special Selectboard meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Town Office Building. An item on the agenda states "Town Report — Complaints."
Assistant Town Clerk Nancy Gassett, who is running for town clerk, told the Reformer she had not heard any concerns regarding the report. Vernon residents Tim Arsenault and Melissa Ferris are also on the ballot.
"I guess I didn't really know anything about that," Gassett said of the town policy. "The three of us wrote that [report] collectively. The three people that signed it."
The section of the report — signed by current Town Clerk Susan Miller, Assistant Town Clerk Aina Lindquist, and Gassett — explains that Miller had been out of the office for nine months due to health issues. Due to complications, she was unable to return and Gassett was sworn in as an additional assistant town clerk.
The "most experienced" person in the office is Lindquist, the report said. But because she lives outside Vernon, she's ineligible for the race.
"Gassett is a resident of Vernon and will be on the March 2016 ballot for the Vernon Town Clerk position," the report said. "Susan (Miller) and Aina (Lindquist) are both endorsing Nancy as the best choice to be the next Vernon Town Clerk. At the time of the 2016 election, Nancy (Gassett) will have had nine months of the hands-on training and experiences that are a necessity to effectively function in the Vernon Town Clerk's Office. We all agree that the office is best served by a person with strong administrative capabilities and a focused attention to details. Nancy (Gassett) possesses these qualities."
The report said "a practical pattern" had been followed in Vernon to handle town clerk transitions; the town clerk serving from 1990 to 2013 was trained by a previous town clerk who had held the position for 14 years, then Miller was an assistant town clerk for 11 years before running for office. Miller held the office for three years.
"We believe this pattern should continue," the town clerk section of the report stated. "In our experiences, the demands of the office require a hands-on trained person as Town Clerk to assume the responsibilities of correctly handling our vital Town records, among many other important statutory duties that have been outlined in this report."
Gassett and Lindquist "have agreed" that if Gassett is elected, they will "seek out a person from the next generation in Vernon" to "carry on the duties" of the office in the years ahead, the report said.
"We hope Vernon voters will give careful thought and consideration to their choices," the town clerk section of the report stated.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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