OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
December 7, 2015
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 8:02 a.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Doug Grob, and Brad Rafus were present, as were Marilyn Allen, Jesse Ferland, Stephan Chait, Sue Kelly, Leslie Pollitt, Linda Lyon, Nicholas Bartenhagen, Maggie Bartenhagen, Cara Cheyette, Town Attorney Robert Fisher, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Discuss Court Case with Attorney Robert Fisher
Lewis Sumner advised the Board would be going into executive session to discuss the C.A. Denison court case with Attorney Bob Fisher, and invited anyone in the audience to speak first, if they wished to do so. Stephan Chait asked for confirmation that there were two separate cases, the appeal, and the declaratory judgment complaint, with the latter being a claim against the town. There are two issues, answered Bob Fisher. The appeal has been properly filed in court, the declaratory judgment action has been filed; that’s one of things we’ll be talking about in executive session. I don’t believe the Selectboard has been served with that yet. Once the party has been served, they have twenty days to answer the complaint. I have been asked to accept service on behalf of the town if the Board directs me to do so; then the twenty days to respond will start. That twenty days has not started yet. They are two separate actions—there may be discussion on trying to combine the actions. The response is essentially a pleading called an answer. We have to answer the complaint, but we do not have to provide a full argument, like a brief, in the twenty days.
Cara Cheyette asked whether the Board would be discussing filing a motion to dismiss, and explained her legal reasoning for suggesting that option. We will be talking about a motion to dismiss, responded Fisher, but for somewhat different reasons. I don’t want to go into that, as we need to talk about different options in executive session. How will the rest of us know the outcome of the executive session, asked Maggie Bartenhagen. The Board will give me directions in executive session, replied Fisher. I will create a draft for Board review, and then at a future meeting you will know if something is filed. There won’t be anything in writing or filed at today’s meeting. Do you anticipate making any decisions today on how to respond, asked Sue Kelly. There won’t be any decision today, said Sumner, while Fisher added that the only possible decision today would be an instruction from the Board for Fisher to accept service. That’s more of a housekeeping matter, he added.
Further opinion was offered from several quarters on the validity of the declaratory judgment action. Jesse Ferland requested an explanation of the declaratory judgment complaint. Essentially, responded Fisher, the declaratory judgment is asking for deemed approval on the basis that there was no action taken on the application within thirty days. There is a factual as well as a legal dispute to that. Might the town be liable for plaintiff’s legal expenses in that action, asked Marilyn Allen. We will have to discuss that, answered Fisher. Sometimes you see courts do that, other times you don’t.
Sumner made a motion to go into executive session for the purpose of discussing pending litigation with legal counsel. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Is anyone opposed, asked Sumner. No one was opposed. Prior to the vote, Chait asked if–at a future meeting–the Board would discuss any decision made in executive session. When Bob Fisher has put something in writing, answered Sumner; there will be no motions made in executive session. Theoretically, said Fisher, the Board could come out of executive session and make a motion in open meeting to direct me to respond to the complaint. Many of us would be interested to know what decisions might be made today, said Sue Kelly. We are not going to make any decisions today, repeated Sumner. That will be at a future meeting.
The Board entered executive session at 8:17 a.m. They exited executive session at 9:16 a.m. No decisions were made.
Hearing of Visitors
The meeting was adjourned at 9:16 a.m.