Shortly after the Brattleboro Selectboard’s May 21, 2013 meeting, Ken Schneck formally notified the Town Clerk of his resignation from the Selectboard effective June 19, 2013.
The process for selecting a new Selectboard member is governed by Brattleboro’s Town Charter and the Selectboard’s Rules For Conduct Of Meetings And Hearings. Applicable language is quoted below.
Article IV, Section 4 of the Charter provides:
“When a member of the selectboard resigns . . . the office shall become vacant.”
The Charter continues that:
“When a vacancy occurs on the board, the remaining selectboard shall fill the vacancy by appointment until the next regularly scheduled election.”
The Selectboard’s Rules For Conduct Of Meetings And Hearings also discuss how vacancies are filled. Section F of those Rules provides that:
“[W]hen a vacancy occurs on a town board, the Selectboard shall forthwith fill such vacancy by appointment.”
The Rules continue that:
“The vacancy shall be publicly announced at the Selectboard’s meeting immediately following the initial occurrence of the vacancy. The candidates shall submit a letter of interest to the Town Manager’s Office by the deadline established by the Selectboard.”
Interviews are another step in this process:
“In the event of multiple applications, the Selectboard shall conduct interviews of the candidates prior to the commencement of the scheduled Selectboard meeting. The Selectboard shall determine the format for the interviews with questions agreed upon by the Selectboard. The interviews shall be open to the public and the time and date of the interviews shall be publicly announced at the prior Selectboard’s meeting. The public shall have the opportunity to make comments on the candidates following their interviews and prior to the commencement of the scheduled Selectboard meeting.”
The Rules continue that:
“Upon conclusion of the interview(s), the Selectboard, at the scheduled Selectboard meeting, shall consider all candidates who have submitted letters of intent, by open nomination.”
Procedures for the voting follow in the Rules.
According to David Gartenstein, Chair of the Brattleboro Selectboard, the process for appointing a new Selectboard member in response to Ken Schneck’s resignation should ensure that candidates have a full opportunity to express interest in the position. The process also should give Brattleboro residents a full opportunity to comment on the candidates and participate in the selection process. Gartenstein also is seeking a process that achieves the greatest level of continuity, with the goal of having a new Selectboard member appointed and sworn in without delay after the effective date of the resignation. In addition, the procedures for filling the Selectboard vacancy have to be consistent with the Town’s Charter and the Board’s Rules.
According to Gartenstein, Brattleboro’s Town Attorney has provided legal advice about the meaning of the Town Charter and the Board’s Rules as they apply to the impending Selectboard vacancy. This legal advice includes the conclusion that the vacancy on the Board does not formally exist under the Charter until the resignation becomes effective. As a result, the Selectboard cannot vote to appoint a new Selectboard member before the vacancy becomes effective on June 19, 2013.
Similarly, the Town Attorney’s position is that the Selectboard’s Rules create a procedure in which formal steps in response to a vacancy do not begin to unfold until a resignation becomes effective. However, the Town Attorney has advised that the Selectboard can suspend its Rules and take some formal steps before June 19, including formally announcing the vacancy, setting the procedures for filling the vacancy, and establishing dates for submitting letters of interest, conducting interviews, and holding the vote on the vacancy.
Taking all of these factors into account, Gartenstein is preliminarily considering a proposal for the appointment process involving the following dates:
Tuesday June 4, 2013: The Selectboard would vote to suspend its Rules of Conduct, and would formally announce the vacancy on the Selectboard, adopt procedures and timeframes for filling the vacancy, and consider questions to be posed to candidates.
Thursday June 13, 2013: Letters of interest for the Selectboard vacancy would be due to the Town Manager’s Office no later than 5:00 p.m. Submissions received after that date and time would not be considered.
Wednesday or Thursday June 19 or 20, 2013: Interviews of Selectboard candidates would begin at 5:00 p.m., with a Special Selectboard Meeting thereafter at 6:30 p.m. After the interviews, but before commencement of the meeting and the vote, members of the public would have an opportunity to make comments on the candidates.
The vote to fill the vacancy would then be on the agenda for that Selectboard meeting, and public discussion also would be welcome at that point. The new Selectboard member would be sworn in thereafter by the Town Clerk.
According to Gartenstein, this proposal may be altered before it is presented to the Selectboard. The proposal also is subject to consideration and revision before final adoption by the Selectboard. Public comment on the process for filling the vacancy and on any related issues also is welcome, and can be submitted to the Town Manager or to any member of the Brattleboro Selectboard.
TOWN OF BRATTLEBORO
Town Manager’s Office
230 Main Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301
FAX (802) 257-2322