Union treasurer referendum recount scheduled for Nov. 30Selectman admits to approving, not reading public letter
Union — A recount of ballots from the Nov. 6 election regarding Union Municipal Referendum Article 2 has been scheduled for Friday, Nov. 30 at 1 p.m.
The referendum, which sought to change the role of treasurer from an elected to an appointed post, failed by four votes — 665 in favor to 669 opposed.
According to Union Town Manager Jay Feyler, two Democrat and two Republican ballot counters from both Democrat and Republican parties will participate in the recount, which will be overseen by Union Town Clerk Marcy Corwin.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Elmer "Buddy" Savage said that, due to the narrow margin of votes, he would have supported a recount regardless of which side held the advantage.
Debate about a three-page, memo-style letter regarding the issue that was sent in late October dominated the Nov. 20 select board meeting.
The letter, dated Oct. 30, summarized the select board's basis for putting the appointment referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot, and concluded with a copy of the legal article itself.
In a public hearing Oct. 16, the select board cited erroneous financial records and the treasurer position's lack of accountability to any in-house authority as motivation for the change. The board quoted a report by auditing firm RHR Smith & Company that identified five "significant deficiencies" and three "material weaknesses" in the town's financial processes.
Complicating matters is the absence of 25-year Union Treasurer Linda McAllister, who is currently not attending work due to medical reasons.
At the Oct. 16 public hearing, Union resident Sybil Wentworth said that the selectmen are blaming McAllister "for taking protected medical leave," and making her a scapegoat for the findings from RHR Smith & Company's 2011 audit.
Four of the five Union selectmen endorsed the change. Selectman Sara Moore dissented, saying, "To me it's just one more little piece being taken away that you, the people of the town of Union are not going to have a say in."
In a letter to Union citizens dated Oct. 30, the select board wrote, "Since our public hearing, more problems have arisen. We have been notified that the treasurer will not be back until at least the end of November. Again, no provisions have been made for the town's business to be done...if the current situation continues, the town will certainly face a significant overdraft in the treasurer's line of the budget."
Savage, who co-authored the letter along with Selectman Lyle Cramer, said at the Nov. 20 meeting that the letter was sent using the mailing system that is also used to distribute tax documents to town citizens. According to Savage, the letter is a re-draft of a version that a third party informed them contained confidential information.
Board of Selectmen Co-Chairman Greg Grotton quoted a message from Jay Feyler that had accompanied the final letter draft when it was emailed to the select board.
"'Buddy asked that I send this to all of you and have you email to all of us any corrections, suggestions, by Sunday night,'" Grotton read. "This was acknowledged by all with, "It looks good,' and, 'It's good for me.'"
Selectman Sara Moore was silent during the initial part of the discussion, but spoke up after Savage asked her, "Do you understand our dilemma about the letter, and the approval of the letter?"
"I got on my computer to look for [the letter in my email], and I am not a computer expert, and I must have hit the wrong button because I never saw it...I never saw it before it went out," Moore said.
Savage said that Moore had approached him at his house several days after the letter had been sent, telling him that she had not seen the letter prior to its release.
"I probably hit the wrong button on my machine," Moore reiterated.
Grotton provided Moore with a document purported to be a hard copy of the emails exchanged between board members. "Says right here," Grotton said, indicating the document, "'Buddy asked that I send this to all of you.'"
"I saw that," Moore interrupted.
"And then the next response, you can see it right here: 'Looks good to me, Buddy - Greg.' And then the next response above it, what's it say?" Grotton asked.
"'Looks good to me, too,'" Moore read. "Yup...I typed it in there, yes, but I hadn't read the letter yet, and when I went to get the letter, it was gone."
The selectmen said that they are not responsible for the circulation of a different notice urging citizens to vote to change the treasurer's post to an appointed position.
A copy of the notice obtained by The Courier-Gazette contains unattributed quotes from Feyler from the Oct. 16 public hearing. Feyler denies creating or propagating the document, which is signed, "Pd (sic) for by a concerned citizen."
Selectmen also reacted strongly against insinuations that they were withholding or deliberately altering information regarding the treasurer referendum.
"You better watch who you're calling liars," Savage said. "I've come just about as far as I can come with people calling me a liar."
"I am not a liar, I will not lie to sit up here or for this town. We have one goal, and that is to do the best we can for this town," said Grotton. "Let's put [this issue] behind us, for Christ's sake, and move on."
Courier Publications reporter Bane Okholm can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.