Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Just Say NO

 Amherst Board of Registrars meeting Town Hall 2:45 pm

In a little less than a half-hour the Amherst Board of Registrars came to a vote on whether to accept a challenge filed by Vince O'Connor and Mary Wentworth to the legality of names appearing on the nomination papers of 1st time School Committee candidate Phoebe Hazzard, who set a town record for acquiring the 50 signatures needed for a town wide office.

The vote was unanimous:  No.  In fact there was an undertone of, now go away.  

The challenge was filed 35 minutes after the "two working day" deadline imposed by state law.  The complainants argued a "working day" for Amherst Town Hall is 8.5 hours but one of those days (Thursday) Town Hall is closed to the general public in the mornings, therefor they only had 1.5 working days to file their grievance.

Board member Susan Lowenstein was the most forthright of the three asking Mr. O'Connor somewhat sternly, "Why do you see criminality and fraud?  I'm appalled this is happening!"

To which Mr. O'Connor responded, "I'm appalled the Town Clerk would accept bad signatures."

Another bystander pointed out, "Not a single person has come forward to say they didn't sign those papers.  There's the letter of the law, and the spirit of the law.  I don't see any violations of the spirit of the law."

O'Connor responded, "It encourages people to sit at home, call up their friends for permission and get signatures that way."

Town Clerk Sandra Burgess had wanted this distraction ended quickly, as the ballot for the March 31 election needs to be printed soon.


Anonymous said...

The Amherst Board of Registrars is a sad sight in so many ways. Should it not be required by those taking any public office to know or at least be taught Robert's Rules? A lesson in generating the language of a motion would help too.

While some may see this particular issue more of an annoyance than not, those serving in public office should respect the privilege of serving and at least look as if they're taking the responsibilities of that office seriously. The woman seated in the middle of the YouTube video looks as if she's been terribly inconvenienced and has more important things to do.

Poor Amherst.

Anonymous said...

>>Another bystander pointed out, "Not a single person has come forward to say they didn't sign those papers.

And what exactly would be someone's motivation to admit that their name was on the nomination papers but they didn't actually sign. The law calls for people to sign the nomination papers themselves not by proxy after a phone call.

Candidates & those helping them should follow the law.

Larry Kelley said...

There's no question the "letter of the law" was not followed for some of those signatures.

And that's nothing to be proud of.

Anonymous said...

It's an uncontested seat. People should be more concerned about what that symbolizes rather than scrutinizing signatures. What a town we live in...

Anonymous said...

I dislike Vince's whole vibe, but he's right on this one. Those signatures should be struck from the nomination papers.

Anonymous said...

" The woman seated in the middle of the YouTube video looks as if she's been terribly inconvenienced and has more important things to do."
I thought she was sleeping!

Anonymous said...

Well you can look at it this way, all those women voted for Obama so how much could they know?

Anonymous said...

It is disappointing that Ms. Hazzard has been silent on this whole issue. This is her first foray into local politics & it would be good for voters & the public to see how she may handle topics when under scrutiny...... in Amherst, large scrutiny of public & elected officials is common.

Anonymous said...

Larry, by the documents you posted, there appear to be multiple (between 5 and 15) instances of forgery on the Phoebe Hazzard nomination papers.

In the past, you've gone after public officials even when you had no basis for doing so, and now the evidence is black (and blue) and white. Why do you seem to be condoning, excusing or looking the other way on this one?

Something's rotten in the state….

Larry Kelley said...

Not condoning it in the least. Just being practical.

If the Board of Registrars did decide to scrutinize the signatures they could only throw out the ones that were forged (apparently with permission) by a friend/family member.

They could NOT disqualify the signature of the perp who signed for others.

Therefor at most only 3 or 4 signatures would be thrown out. Not enough to bring the candidate below the 50 signature threshold.

Anonymous said...


"Forge" is a strong word, partners.
It generally means signing without permission.

There are many circumstances when one person can sign for someone else:
a) physical disability
b) power-of-attorney
c) delegated authority

I'm pretty sure the letter I got from Hillary Clinton was not actually signed by her.

Indeed the registrars themselves did not sign the papers--someone stamped their signatures.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, "generally" it does.

But I would feel comfortable using it if the perp forged a family member name without first telling them about it assuming it was okay (probably because they have done it in the past).

The word "perp" is also a tad strong.

Anonymous said...

Is the public approval of our current School Committee greater than it was five years ago?

Remember we were told that that School Committee was a problem that needed to be fixed.

Anonymous said...

Vince can rub people the wrong way but he is right on this one. Vince has worked long and hard to get signatures for many things over the years. So have I. It is a slap in the face for someone to do what Hazzard did. Many of us take the process seriously. Hazzard did not. What kind a SC member can we expect from this behavior.

We already have people on the committee who talk a lot and do nothing. We really don't need another. I will be recommending that people find a better sign in candidate.

Anonymous said...

Wow! You got a letter from Hillary too?? I thought I was special.

Anonymous said...

Vince has never rubbed me either the wrong way or the right way. Looking forward to keeping it that way.

Dr. Ed said...

"Letter of the law and spirit of the law"?!?

Sounds sorta like rolling through "Stop" signs because "no one was coming."

Better yet, the "spirit" of red lights is to permit vehicles to go on the other street - so at 2AM when there are no other vehicles, we don't have to stop anymore?

Somehow, I don't think that the APD would be overly impressed with that....

Dr. Ed said...

Facts matter and Vince is right on this one -- the law neither anticipated office buildings nor them being closed because it was snowing -- the "spirit of the law" was that the Town Clerk shouldn't have to work on the Sabbath.

When the law was written, most towns didn't have offices for their elected officials -- until 1855 the Congregational Church was both taxpayer supported and where town meetings were held -- municipal officials worked out of their homes and you went there with anything you needed to sign.

This is still true in some places -- I once was sitting in a town clerk's kitchen at 5AM while she certified my signatures -- this was her request as when she had time to do it, after her husband (lobsterman) had gone to haul but before her children were awake.

Unless the Town Clerk is willing to have Vince (and everyone else) in her kitchen with whatever paperwork he needs her to do something with, if she wishes to insist that she only be asked to conduct town business during her office hours, she needs to honor those hours.

This ruling means that the "working day" is tolling while she is in her house -- which means that it is perfectly acceptable to expect her to conduct town business there...

This is a really bad precedent that is going to come back to bite those who hold public office in Amherst.