Judge: Warner officials can’t unresign
Christine Frost and Jody Sloane are no longer elected officials representing the town
Warner select board members Christine Frost and Jody Sloane cannot rescind their resignations and are no longer elected officials representing the town, a judge ruled Monday.
In addition, Judge Brian Tucker approved the appointment of Faith Minton to the board until town meeting elections in March. She will fill Frost’s seat.
Both Frost and Sloane emailed their resignations on July 12, the morning after a contentious public meeting. The remaining selectman, Harry Seidel, petitioned the court to appoint Minton, a longtime town volunteer to fill one of the seats to give the three-member board the ability to conduct business again. Yet, on July 18, Frost and Sloane decided to cancel their resignations at another meeting and tried to retake their seats on the board.
Tucker ruled against them.
“Frost and Sloane agree they resigned voluntarily,” Tucker wrote. “In their communications to town officials, they deemed their resignations ‘effective immediately.’”
Since the vacancies deprived the select board of a quorum and the ability to appoint a new member, the court petition to appoint Minton was necessary and valid, Tucker ruled.
“Efforts by Frost and Sloane to rescind their resignations from offices that became vacant with their actions were of no effect, and their ability to hold the office depends on future election or appointment,” Tucker wrote.
Frost and Sloane had said they resigned due to “dysfunction” in town administration.
At the July 11 meeting, Seidel informed Sloane and Frost that he would not be comfortable signing a contract with the Warner Connects food pantry in a town-owned building following an investigation from the attorney general’s office into the group’s status as a non-profit.
He also called out Frost, who met one on one with Warner Connects, to sign the lease and changed one line in the agreement without the other two members’ approval.
The change Frost made, which stated that the organization could keep belongings in the hallways, was not a material change outside of the length, cost and conditions that the board agreed on, she said.
Seidel and Diane Ricciardelli, the town administrator, disagreed.
Following the meeting both Frost and Sloane resigned, bringing Warner town government to a halt with the lack of a quorum.
Seidel then petitioned the court to appoint Minton to the board in their absence.
Prior to the court hearing last Thursday, Frost and Sloane attended the select board meeting on July 18 with an announcement – they’d rescinded their resignations and made a motion to fire Ricciardelli.
Seidel refuted that the two women were no longer on the board and their motion was therefore invalid.
After deliberating, Tucker agreed, ruling that the two women had in fact resigned and could not rejoin the board.
Attorney Ben Frost, husband of Christine, argued that it was common law practice for resignations to take effect after they are formally accepted. Without a quorum, this did not happen.
Even though town attorney Michael Courtney had asked Frost and Sloane to come back to help appoint a new member to the board, he argued in court that under New Hampshire law a resignation is effective upon delivery.
Tucker ruled in favor of state law, acknowledging the inconsistency between common law and state statutes.
With no lawful way to accept the vacancies with Seidel as the lone board member, petitioning the court to appoint a new person was the correct course of action, Tucker wrote.
Minton is on the board effective immediately with the next select board meeting on Aug. 1.
Together, Minton and Seidel can fill the third vacancy. The two new members will serve on the select board until Town Meeting, at which point residents can elect new members.
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