Letter: School board member reinstated in Wallingford after removed from voter checklist without due process

This letter is by Lynn James Edmunds, of Wallingford.

When 18 residents petitioned Wallingford’s town clerk on March 3, 2022, spokesman Ken Fredette requested the Board of Civil Authority verify the residency of Bruce Moreton. At a meeting held March 23 that same year, the BCA sent a challenge letter to Moreton, with his political enemies seizing on an opportunity to remove him from Mill River’s board of directors. The removal would be based on a residency rule, which requires a school board director to be on the voter checklist of the town he or she represents.

After the house Moreton was renting in town was sold, he was unable to find housing in Wallingford at the time and was forced to winter in Rutland while his seasonal home on Sugar Hill was prepared for year-round occupancy. He was easily able to defend against the accusations that he lived out of town by meeting all the requirements of Vermont law, and as a result, his voting privileges were returned to active status.

However, a year later, his political rivals would not be deterred. They continued to insist he still doesn’t live in Wallingford. Even after he had spent the summer of 2022 at his residence on Wallingford Pond Road, they continued claiming he is not a resident.

After a year had passed the challengers were back. This time they would enlist new members on the Board of Civil Authority to their cause. So Feb. 15, 2023, the BCA convened another meeting, in spite of the fact countless town residents enjoy no fear of being purged from the checklist for being temporarily away from their primary residence in winter months. Consequently, Bruce Moreton was simply not afforded the same degree of respect or dignity as other members of the community — and the harassment continued.

Perhaps some members of the community didn’t get the memo when Wallingford recently adopted an inclusion statement. So they still cling to their ideology, ignore due process under the law, and pretend to be outraged.

One has to wonder: why this vindictive behavior? After all, couldn’t they just wait until his term is up next year and vote him out of office?

But on Feb. 15 the BCA removed Moreton from the checklist — but when the fog of war lifted, a lack of due process hung in the air. Wallingford legislators began reviewing vulnerabilities and promptly rescheduled another meeting for March 2, 2023, to reconsider the BCA’s aggressive action to remove Mr. Moreton — absent due process. The decision to revisit actions taken on Feb. 15 was based on a recommendation from Vermont’s secretary of state.

On March 2 the meeting to reconsider was called to order, with battle lines drawn. Newly enlisted allies on the BCA, not well seasoned in their duties, narrowly missed stepping in a mine field as they hastily pursued removal of Moreton from the Mill River school board. Forced to withdraw under heavy fire from a lack of due process, the BCA was now back to reconsider their previous action. The burden of proof had now been shifted from Moreton to the Board of Civil Authority. They were liable for their actions and the town was now liable for damages as a result.

The once-new board members restored Mr. Moreton to the checklist in an 8-2 vote, reversing the previous 6-4 decision that removed him. They declined to take up another motion to send an additional challenge letter when it was offered.

Perhaps this board will now be far less likely to rush to judgment in the future, or to fall for campaigns that go against their oath of office and the guidelines established for them by Vermont Law for a Justice of the Peace.

Everyone deserves to be treated the same. If we are to be inclusive, we must follow procedural due process to ensure there are no double standards.

Image courtesy of Public domain

3 thoughts on “Letter: School board member reinstated in Wallingford after removed from voter checklist without due process

  1. Here is a great example of how the rule of law, how a republic is supposed to work. This is a wonderful victory, one that could be replicated across the state. Keep doing things like this and suddenly you have an effective……..VTGOP! Shudder the thought.

    Who knows , perhaps we could shed the shackles from our overlords. Perhaps we could rid ourselves of the cancel culture. Could be fun!

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