Recount confirms Mt. Ascutney school board winner after election raised questions

By NORA DOYLE-BURR

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-21-2023 3:53 PM

WINDSOR — The Windsor representative to the Mt. Ascutney School District Board who won a contested race on Town Meeting Day has retained her victory following a recount.

The recount conducted Thursday in West Windsor by justices of the peace from the Mt. Ascutney School District’s two towns, Windsor and West Windsor, found that Amy McMullen beat Kaitlyn Gould, 255-222, according to West Windsor Town Clerk Cathy Archibald. The previous tally from the March 7 vote, reported the following day, was McMullen, 252, to Gould, 234.

The recount was conducted at Gould’s request, following reports that McMullen, Windsor’s town clerk, had been inside the polling location as voters were casting ballots on voting day.

After initially conceding the election to McMullen via email, Gould told the board in a recording of its March 13 meeting that she had “a lot of concerns about the validity of that election.” Gould’s concerns were echoed by several other residents during the March 13 meeting.

In the meeting recording, McMullen acknowledged being present at the polls at the Windsor Municipal Building during Town Meeting voting and said that her presence there represented “poor judgment” on her part. But she said she did not campaign inside the polling place, nor did she coerce voters into voting for her or count ballots. In a similar situation in the future, she would assign someone else to fulfill the clerk’s role, she said.

Later in the March 13 meeting, Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union interim Superintendent Christine Bourne read an election validation resolution, which she said at least two-thirds of the board could sign to validate the election results. It said that while “some district voters have alleged (the vote) was conducted not in accordance with Vermont statutes” the board believes that any mistakes were inadvertent and the result of oversight, and therefore the results of the election are valid.

“What we’re saying is that there were some mistakes made and that there were faulty pieces of the process,” Mt. Ascutney School District Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Burrows said in summarizing the document.

She noted that the school district clerk was not present at the polls on the day of the vote. Later in the meeting, in response to questions from Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh, Burrows said that the district had appointed West Windsor Town Administrator Chris Dolan as its clerk. But Dolan, reached by phone on Tuesday, said that she had only been appointed to take notes during a budget meeting.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Hanover to temporarily close portion of Allen Street to vehicles
Young bear spotted relaxing on a hammock in a Vermont yard
Dollar store under construction in Royalton
Mother bear euthanized, cubs sent to rehab facility after close encounters in Bartlett, N.H.
Bike Week at Weirs Beach is for old leather and new friends
Protests of president punctuate rainy graduation for Dartmouth’s Class of ’24

“That was just a one time thing,” Dolan said. “It wasn’t an official role. Maybe technically I was acting (district clerk). I wasn’t aware I had a title.”

At the beginning of the March 13 meeting, the board unanimously approved McMullen as district clerk.

“We did elect a district clerk so we are square for next time,” Burrows said in the meeting recording.

The annual meeting warning also was not posted in the West Windsor Town Office in a timely fashion. Bourne said that when school officials learned it had not been posted, they acted to post one as soon as possible. But because of that mistake and on the advice of the district’s attorney, Bourne said the district plans to hold “a public validation meeting” on April 19.

At the April 19 meeting, school officials will acknowledge that the district’s annual meeting was not properly warned and “sit down and figure out a process that’s going to work for all involved so that it goes much more smoothly in the future,” Bourne said in the recording.

Among those expected to be in attendance are the school district clerk, town clerk and town manager, Bourne said.

Under Vermont Statutes Title 17, Section 2662, Validation of municipal meetings, mistakes related to the warning of annual or special municipal meeting can be corrected and legalized by a vote at a regular or special meeting of the municipality.

Additionally, errors or omissions in the conduct of the original meeting “may be cured by a resolution of the legislative body of the municipality by a vote of two-thirds of all its members at a regular meeting or a special meeting called for that purpose, stating that the defect was the result of oversight, inadvertence, or mistake.”

When an error or omission has been corrected, the results are deemed valid as if the requirements had been initially complied with, the statute says.

Aggrieved candidates have the right to appeal the result of an election to the county Superior Court within five days of the vote in question, under Vermont Statute Title 17, Section 2687. Attempts to reach Gould on Tuesday were not successful. As of Tuesday afternoon, there was no filing under her name in Windsor Superior Court.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

]]>