Need for Australian Ballot vote on town’s legal expenses — Doris Sage

At the beginning of [last week’s Selectboard] meeting, Rick Bessette, poet laureate, asked us to honestly see ourselves as a community, a family of kind, to live in peace. He shared his heartfelt message.

The Selectboard chair loves to bamboozle residents and focuses his answers on circumventing questions. I appreciate a direct approach, and needless to say was disappointed in the tone the meeting took. Months go by, and transparency at Selectboard meetings is deplorable. Boring! What a waste of precious time!

I will repeat myself a little here, so please bear with me. Sixty thousand dollars was appropriated for legal fees for 2017-2018, and our Town Charter allows 2 percent of $8,074,000, the annual budget, to be used for legal fees in an emergency. That 2 percent equals $166,000 per year. Monies spent over 2 percent require residents to vote by Australian ballot to approve more money. Now our community owes at least $365,000 in litigation fees for the Vermont Railway case. We are not so naïve as to believe that legal fees will not double or triple as we litigate matters against this federal entity.

​After the Oct. 24 selectboard meeting, I felt it necessary to visit our finance director to learn more, being I do trust his word. Our finance director used this example, “If there’s a flood in town and the Highway Department needs more money for repairs, should it be brought to a town vote?”​

​This ​is the rub. Auditors feel that in an emergency, the town has already appropriated monies for legal fees, therefore residents are not required to vote in appropriating monies spent over 2 percent of the annual budget. In an emergency, the town charter is left to the discretion of the town manager and Selectboard members to interpret and decide. (Slick!!!)

In the case with the railroad, YES it needs to be voted by Australian ballot if the governing body is determined to ignore the people they represent.

​​(Shelburne would be wise to challenge the railroad using any number of​ different approaches.)​ Don’t ever think that your voice and/or​ vote doesn’t count; it absolutely counts. “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Doris Sage 
Shelburne

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