- A Justice Of The Peace Who
Performs Duties Before Filing A Copy Of His Or Her Oath May Be Fined. Under 4 V.S.A. '
491, a justice must file a copy of his or her oath with the town clerks office
before performing his or her formal duties. Because the term of office begins on February
1, a justice of the peace can deliver the oath copy any time after February 1, as long as
no official duties have been performed prior to filing the copy with the town clerks
office. There is no automatic fine if a justice fails to file the oath. It is only when a
justice willfully neglects to file the oath copy with the town clerk that he or she may be
fined not more than $100, and then only after a prosecution is brought by the Attorney
General or the District Attorney.
Only Clerk Or Assistant May Record Or Certify
Documents On Behalf Of The Town. By law, there are certain duties that must be
fulfilled by the Town Clerk. However, the law recognizes that the clerk may require some
assistance in the performance of his or her duties. Accordingly, 24 V.S.A. § 1170 and
1171 permits the clerk to appoint one or more assistants who are specifically authorized
to perform the recording and filing duties of the clerk, to issue licenses and certified
copies of record and to perform all other duties of the clerk in his or her absence. Note
that implicit in this statute is the understanding that someone who is not appointed or
sworn as an assistant town clerk may not perform these functions.
Rescission Or Reconsideration Vote Requires
Majority Vote. A bond vote was held to rehabilitate an old school building. The voters
approved the project. A petition for rescission was submitted to the clerk. 17 V.S.A. §
26619b). Town officials wondered if a rescission vote required approval by a majority of
the voters or two-thirds of the voters. A rescission or reconsideration article is a
public question. 17 V.S.A. § 2103 (27). Public questions pass if a majority of the votes,
excluding blank and spoiled, is cast in favor of the proposition. 17 V.S.A. § 2681a(f).
- After A Vote To Recind A Bond Vote May Be Brought Before The Voters
Again. A community voted and passed a bond to rehabilitate a school building. A
petition to rescind the vote is received and, after the vote is held, the bond vote is
rescinded. The question is whether the board may bring the bond before the voters again
within the same calendar year. The general rule is that a board may not submit a bond vote
for the same or substantially similar public improvement to the voters more than two times
within a calendar year or any twelve month period. 24 V.S.A. § 1755. Since the vote to
rescind is not a submission to the voters that the town incur bonded debt, an article
asking the voters to approve a bond issue may be resubmitted to the voters after a
successful vote to rescind so long as it is only the second time this article is brought
before the voters during the preceding twelve months.
Charter Provisions May Only Be Voted On
After Two Public Hearings. The town received a petition on January 27, 1999 for the
town meeting warning asking the voters to adopt a governance charter that included a
provision for recall of local officials. The town was unable to place the article on the
town meeting warning because insufficient time was available to hold the required public
hearings. Charter adoption, amendment or repeal requires two public hearings prior to the
vote on whether to adopt or reject the charter article, with the first public hearing held
at least thirty days before the annual or special meeting. 17 V.S.A. § 2645. Public
hearings must be warned in the same manner as for annual meetings of the municipality. In
other words, if a municipality wished to vote on a charter proposal at town meeting, March
2, 1999, the first charter amendment hearing must have been held at least thirty days
before town meeting or no later than January 31, 1999. To warn that hearing in the same
way and time as for annual meeting of the municipality requires posting the public hearing
at least thirty days before January 31, 1999 -- by January 1, 1999 in at least two places
in the town and in or near the town clerks office. 17 V.S.A. § 2641. The
requirement for a thirty-day warning for the public hearing affects petitioned charter
changes as well as charter changes initiated by the legislative body. Some chartered
cities and towns may have shorter notice requirements, because their charters require
shorter notice times for the annual meeting. If you are a city or town or village with a
charter, be sure to check your charter for the appropriate warning timetable. Another
important distinction is that petitioned charter proposals can only be voted at an annual
meeting, primary or general election. A charter proposal sponsored by the legislative body
of the municipality can be voted at any annual or special meeting, including primary and
The Clerk Is Not the Clerk Of The Selectboard. A
clerk wondered if one of the town clerks duties was to be clerk of the selectboard.
There is no statutory requirement that the town clerk be the clerk of the select board,
however, some clerks take the minutes of the boards meetings. In many towns the
selectboard hires another person to take the minutes of its meetings.
The Selectboard May Not Set Hours For Town Clerk. Can
the selectboard set the hours for the town clerks office? The selectboard cannot
compel the town clerk to work a specific number of hours per week. Usually the selectboard
budget contains a recommendation for the clerks compensation. That compensation
obviously influences the amount of hours worked by the clerk, but the clerk determines
what those hours are.
- Voters May Not Adopt Ordinance. Every once in awhile voters in a
town want to petition an item for the warning permitting the voters to adopt a
local regulation or ordinance. However, although Vermont law permits voters to disapprove
of an ordinance adopted by the board, it does not permit voters to initiate an ordinance
by petition. 24 V.S.A. § 1972 provides that the select board adopts town ordinances, and
gives voters forty-four days to petition the board for a vote on whether to disapprove the
ordinance. If the ordinance is disapproved by the voters, it does not go into effect.
Voters who want to see a particular regulation in place must convince the selectboard that
it is in the best interest of the town.