Some residents, including at least one town official, have questioned if the Town Council vote of Tuesday is valid. The issue is whether the earlier this month that held it was a conflict for a town councilor employed by the board of education to vote on the budget. If yes, it could mean the 4-0 vote Tuesday to bless a budget resolution that restored a job and cut police weapons was not legitimate.
A – and put in its place a substitute resolution that returned the $29,079 land use assistant position back in the budget and cut other line items including $25,000 for police weapons and ammunition.
Only four councilors were in attendance – Gary Murphy, Billy Caron, Laura Tanner and Chuck Loughton.
Tanner is the councilor on question that works for the school district as a paraprofessional. Duggan said she could not vote on the education budget. Some have questioned whether that means the Town of Montville fiscal year 2012-2013 budget, given the education budget, like the capital spending plan and general government budget all fall within the overall town budget.
Mayor Ronald McDaniel said “his understanding” from Town Attorney Eileen Duggan is it’s just the education budget she cannot vote on.
"That's the way it was explained to me," McDaniel said.
Duggan did not return a Montville Patch call for clarification on the opinion.
In the meantime, there’s no formal word on whether Republicans and members of the so-called Independence for Montville Party will pursue another petition go-round seeking to “overrule” the 2012-2013 $55.6 million budget after the 550-signature, 23-page petition filed Monday was not validated since it was short 14 verifiable signatures. But according to Andriote and McFee, they were told the petition would not have been accepted in any event. McFee said Duggan told him it would “not be allowed.”
Duggan did not respond to a call for clarification.
According to Town Clerk Lisa J. Terry, 474 signatures are required per the Town Charter and while the document had more than 500 signatures, she could only verify 460. Town Councilor Gary Murphy read Terry’s memo during the councilor’s remarks portion of the Special Meeting Tuesday, moments after the council voted to approve the resolution.
“Every signature that was rejected had a reason next to the name …reasons why a (name) was rejected ranged from not a voter, not a taxpayer, illegible or signed twice,” she explained in an email to Patch.
Andriote said, “Everything was done by the book, (Terry) very helpful. She did a great job.”
He laid blame with the Mayor and council chair. But Republican Town Councilor Dana McFee said “at this point, what matters is it failed.”
“We’re not gonna use that same loophole we’re complaining about. We attempted. We failed.”
McFee joined Andriote and others to collect petition signatures at locations including the Transfer Station.
McDaniel said McFee “is within his rights” as a citizen to seek the petition. McFee, who during the June 5 special meeting to adopt the budget, repeatedly urged citizens to create a petition to force it to a town-wide vote, voted in favor of the budget.