Check is OK for library, but not for ethics panel

The $500,000 gift toward Shelburne’s new library raised an interesting question Tuesday evening.

The full donation hinges on raising an equal amount of money from the community — reducing borrowing for the $6.5 million project by $1 million. Voters will decide Nov. 7 whether to approve the project.

At Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting, the town got its first donation toward the match challenge — from Davies Allen of Harbor Road, who provided a check for $2,500. Board Chairman Gary von Stange thanked him for the “kind and generous gift.”

It was an ironic twist because minutes earlier von Stange had refused to accept the $2,500 check when Allen attempted to donate it so the town’s Ethics Committee would be able to hire outside legal counsel if there was ever a question involving a Selectboard member or the town manager.

Several residents expressed concerns at recent meetings that there is a potential conflict of interest if the Ethics Committee had to go to the Selectboard or manager to seek money for an investigation involving those town officials.

Dr. Steven Metz was at his third meeting asking for action on the request from the committee.
“You ought to do something about it,” Metz said.

Dr. Josh Dein, a Selectboard member, said he had asked that the issue be placed on the agenda, but was turned down.

Von Stange read the provision controlling the Ethics Committee, which noted it is not allowed to incur any expense without the approval of the town manager.

Other board members are willing to wait until the 2018 budget process to discuss the issue.

Finding a board member
The Selectboard began a preliminary discussion about how it plans to replace John Kerr, the board’s vice chairman, who has resigned effective Oct. 31.

While Kerr has made it clear he does not plan to pull his resignation letter, Von Stange said the board can do little before Oct. 31 in case he reconsiders. Kerr was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

In his resignation letter, Kerr noted what he believes is a lack of civility within the town and local government. He is seven months into a two-year term. His appointed replacement will serve until town elections next March.

The Selectboard is asking interested people to send applications or letters of intent to the town manager by Nov. 7. The board plans to conduct public interviews at its meeting Nov. 14.

The board also appeared to be leaning toward finding a former Selectboard member interested in serving only until next March.

Von Stange said that way, the person selected would not have an advantage in seeking election in March over other interested candidates.

However, some residents questioned why the board would not want to get new people involved who might want to continue to serve the town.

Parker, the only woman on the board, said they also should look at diversity, including gender and age.

Dein said when the Selectboard last filled a vacancy, he was pleased that the entire process was done in open session, including the voting.

“If we could have a 4-0 vote, I’d love to see it,” Dein said. Von Stange agreed.

Selectboard member Jerry Storey said upcoming meetings are critical because the budget will be developed for the coming fiscal year. He hopes the interim board member will have some local government experience, knowledge of budgeting, and is not planning on running in March. He said otherwise the person would “have a leg up” by running.

Von Stange agreed that budgeting will be a huge part of the board’s work in coming months. He said the board in the past has held extra meetings, including one daylong marathon session, to work on the budget. The interested candidates should be available for that lengthy session and the other meetings.

Dispatch equipment
The Selectboard authorized the Shelburne Police Department to seek a grant from Vermont Homeland Security to replace three emergency dispatching consoles in the town’s communications center.

Town Manager Joe Colangelo said there is a short deadline for the applications and the board needed to act Tuesday if the town was going to be considered. He said the town would need to find $20,000 for its share of the cost.

Dein said he supports seeking the grant, but said the item was not warned to the public on the agenda. He reminded the board that, when he attempted to make a motion for an item that was listed on the agenda, he was denied that opportunity because he was told it was not on the agenda as an action item. He urged the board to be consistent with its procedures.

The motion was approved 4-0.

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