1. When a candidate is elected but declines to serve a vacancy is
created. In all elections for office in Vermont, including
Justice of the Peace, if the candidate who received the most votes
and is elected, decides that he or she does not want to serve in the
position, this creates a vacancy that must be filled according to
statutory procedures. It is never possible to have a person decline
an election so that the person receiving the next highest amount of
votes becomes the winner.
2. JPs take office on February 1st.
Although Justices of the Peace have been elected (on November 2,
2004), the term of office for newly elected JP’s does not begin
until February 1, 2005. A person elected as a JP can take the oath
and return the oath of office to the Town Clerk at any time after
receipt of the Certificate of Election, but the newly elected JP
cannot perform any of the duties of a JP until February 1, 2005.
3. JP oath of office required before JP can act. A justice of
the peace is not fully qualified to serve until he or she has taken
the oath of office and the oath of allegiance and has filed a
notarized copy of those oaths with the town clerk. The Secretary of
State provides copies of these oath forms to every newly elected
justice. 4 V.S.A. § 491. (In January we will be mailing JP Handbooks
and oath forms to newly elected Justices. The guide and forms can
also be obtained from our website
4. Governor appoints to fill JP vacancies. The Governor may
appoint a successor whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of
justice of the peace. A vacancy can occur by resignation, death, or
insanity. A vacancy can also occur when the JP moves to another
state. Moving to another Vermont town in Vermont does not create a
vacancy. In most cases, however, a justice will resign when he or
she leaves town. Governors usually appoint a member of the party of
the former justice of the peace to fill the vacancy - although not
always the person recommended by the party. 17 V.S.A. § 2623.
5. Town can require hookup to municipal sewer system. If a
town or city extends its sewer system, it can adopt an ordinance to
require that all adjacent property owners connect to the public
system and abandon private septic systems. 24 V.S.A.§3509.
The sewage commissioners may require the owners of buildings,
subdivisions or developments abutting a public street to connect to
the municipal sewage system.
6. Water and sewer delinquencies can be collected by the
delinquent tax collector. Municipalities with water and sewer
systems may choose to collect delinquent payments in the same manner
as their delinquent taxes are collected or by using the Uniform
Water Disconnect statute. 24 V.S.A. § 3504, 5141 et seq. If
collected as a tax, the town or city’s delinquent tax collector may
bring a tax sale to collect the amount owed. Often the water/sewer
charge is collected along with any delinquent taxes owed on the
property. In the alternative, the municipality can shut off the
water if a person fails to pay their charges. This is a more
complicated process, and provides the resident an opportunity to
appeal a decision to shut off water.
7. Interest on Delinquent Water or Sewer Payments May Only Be
Charged After Vote. Water or Sewer Commissioners in a town can
charge interest on delinquent payments for water and/or sewer ONLY
if the voters of the municipality have approved an article in the
warning to collect interest on overdue taxes in the town. 24 V.S.A.
§ 5151 and 32 V.S.A. § 5136. The article stays in effect until voted
otherwise at a subsequent meeting. Similarly, the trustees or
prudential committee of a fire district or water district must place
an article on the warning for voters to collect interest on overdue
payments for water and sewer before interest can be collected.
8. Town Clerk can serve as Village Clerk. The law permits the
same person to be elected to serve as Town Clerk-Treasurer and also
as Village Clerk-Treasurer. There is no statutory conflict
and in many situations each municipality benefits from the knowledge
and experience of the candidate who has already served in one of the
9. Town treasurer cannot resign as school treasurer. 16 V.S.A
§ 426 provides that "the town treasurer shall be treasurer of the
town school district unless, by vote of the town school district a
town school district treasurer is elected." This means that the
treasurer cannot decide to resign as school treasurer – but remain
town treasurer. Unless the school district elects a treasurer, the
town treasurer must perform the school treasurer duties.
10. Investment of funds is a joint responsibility. While the
treasurer has control over the accounts of the town, how and where
to invest the money (including decisions as to what bank to keep the
town accounts in) are a joint responsibility of the treasurer and
the selectboard. 24 V.S.A. § 1571(b) provides that "moneys received
by the town treasurer on behalf of the town may be invested and
reinvested by the treasurer with the approval of the legislative
11. Social service agencies can circulate a joint petition.
Social service agencies can join together in circulating a petition
signed by 5% of the legal voters to ask to have an article or
several articles placed on the warning for town meeting. 17
V.S.A. § 2642. However, if using a joint petition, we strongly
suggest that each agency present its request in a separate Article
in the petition so that the votes for each agency will be taken
separately at town meeting.
12. Social service agency funded by the town must provide
services to the community. The general rule is that a town may
only spend taxpayer dollars for social service agencies that serve
the community. According to 24 V.S.A. § 2691 a town or village may
"appropriate such sums of money as it deems necessary for the
support of social service programs and facilities within that town
for its residents." Note that, despite the
statutory language, the Vermont Supreme Court has held that social
service agencies physically located outside the municipality may be
considered to be social programs within the village or town if the
agency serves the residents of the municipality. Addison County
Community Action Group v. City of Vergennes, 152 Vt. 161 (1989)
(This case also extended § 2691 to cities.)
13. Selectboard can require social service agency to contract
with the town to ensure services. State law allows the
selectboard to require a social service agency that is being funded
by the town to enter into a contract to ensure that the
appropriation is used to provide services to the town. 24 V.S.A. §
2692. A court will require that such a contract be reasonable.
Addison County Community Action Group v. City of Vergennes, 152 Vt.
14. A majority of the selectboard must concur in order for a
motion to pass. A Selectboard must have a majority of the full
board vote in favor of a motion in order to pass the motion even if
some members of the board are absent or have recused themselves. (1
V.S.A. §172). For example, if you have a five member selectboard, at
least 3 members must vote in favor of a motion for it to pass. If
only 3 members are present and voting, then all three members must
vote in favor of the motion in order to take action.
15. Quorum for school board differs from the rules that apply to
town boards. School boards operate under a special statute, 16
V.S.A. §554, that changes the general rule for board voting. A
school board needs a quorum (majority of the board) to be present,
but then only requires the majority of those present to vote in
favor of a motion for the motion to pass. For example, on a
union high school board composed of 15 total members, if only 9
members are present at a meeting, only five members need to vote in
favor of a motion for it to pass.
16. Advisory board does not have to follow quorum rules.
Vermont’s quorum rule can be found in 1 V.S.A. § 172. This law
provides that "when joint authority is given to three or more, the
concurrence of a majority of such number shall be sufficient and
shall be required in its exercise." Because an advisory board is not
given any authority – rather, by definition it is only providing a
recommendation to the board who has the authority to act – this
quorum requirement will not apply. This means that unless the board
who creates the advisory committee instructs otherwise, no quorum
rule will apply.
17. Board Cannot Eject Member From Executive Session. In one
town a dissenting member of the board routinely informed public and
press about what was discussed during their executive session. The
board cannot prevent this from occurring. Although the board can
publicly express its displeasure, the law does not permit the board
to exclude or eject one of its members from a meeting. 1 V.S.A. §
18. Board May Eject Unruly Member of Public. On occasion a
member of the public will disrupt a meeting. In such a case the
chair of the board should first try to calm the individual down and
restore order. If this is not possible the chair can call on the
town constable to remove the individual from the meeting. 1 V.S.A. §
19. School Board Follows Roberts Rules; Selectboard Can Create
Own Procedures. Vermont law requires school board meetings to be
conducted using Robert’s Rules of Order. 16 V.S.A. § 554. For small
school boards we recommend that the board use Robert’s Rules for
Small Boards. In contrast, the law is silent about what procedures
the selectboard and other local boards should follow. Accordingly,
these boards can adopt their own rules of order. This can be, but
does not have to be, Robert’s Rules. We recommend that boards commit
to writing the procedures they follow so that all board members and
members of the public will know what to expect.
20. Board May Draw Orders Without Quorum In Some Cases.
Vermont law permits the selectboard (and other boards that have
authority to draw orders directly from the treasurer) to authorize
one or more members of the board to draw orders directed to the
treasurer to pay the expense of the town. Orders must state
definitely the purpose for which they are drawn and serve as full
authority to the treasurer to make the payments. The full board must
be provided a record of the orders drawn in this manner. 24 V.S.A. §
21. Board May Submit Minutes of Meeting To Draw Orders On Town
Accounts. If a selectboard chooses it may simply submit to the
town treasurer a certified copy of those portions of the selectboard
minutes, properly signed by the clerk and chair or by a majority of
the board, showing to whom, and for what purpose payments by the
town are to be made by the treasurer. The certified copy of the
minutes serves as full authority to the treasurer to make the
approved payments. 24 V.S.A. § 1623.
22. Local Candidate Petitions for Office Must be Specific.
Vermont law requires that a candidate's petition to get on the
ballot for local office in municipalities that use the Australian
ballot system for election of officers must clearly indicate the
office and the term length for the office the candidate is
seeking (particularly when there is more than one position open with
different terms of office.) 17 V.S.A. § 2681(b).
23. Petition Heading Must be Complete Before Signed by Voters.
A candidate cannot circulate a petition for signatures without a
term length and then add or change the term length after signatures
have been obtained. For example, a candidate cannot circulate a
petition for selectboard without indicating which term he or she is
seeking. However, it is ok for a person to circulate two or three
different petitions for selectboard, one petition for the one year
seat, one for the remaining year of a three year term, and one for
the three year term; and then wait until the filing deadline to
decide which petition to submit to the Town Clerk.
24. Purging of Checklists. We have now concluded another
general election after the changes to Title 17 which require Boards
of Civil Authority to wait for two general elections before removing
names from the checklist of persons who have been notified in
writing pursuant to 17 V.S.A. § 2150. Therefore, a Board of Civil
Authority can now meet to vote to remove those names of all persons
who did not respond to the First Class Letters and Notices (as
described in section 2150 (d)(3) asking the voter to verify
eligibility to vote) mailed prior to the 2000 general elections.
Eratta: Last month, number 8 in the Opinion of Opinions said
that the planning commission can appoint an acting administrative
officer in accordance with Section 4442 of Title 24. With the passage
of Act 115, the appointment provisions are now in section 4448 and
only the legislative body can appoint an acting administrative officer
[section b] although the planning commission does have a role to play.
In our monthly Opinions we provide what we believe the law requires based
upon our legal judgment, years of observing Vermont’s local government
practices, and Vermont Court decisions. This information is intended as a
reference guide only and should not replace the advice of legal counsel.
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