Fairhaven state investigation the "missing piece."
Posted in the Boston Forum
#1 May 10, 2013
Murphy, Haworth cool on calling for new election
By Peggy Aulisio
May 09, 2013 10:35 AM
FAIRHAVEN A request to hold a new election for the Board of Health was rebuffed May 6 by Select Board Chairman Charles Murphy and Selectman Geoffrey Haworth.
"Any party involved can appeal to the Superior Court," Mr. Murphy said, adding that only the court can call for a new election.
Mr. Haworth said selectmen would be "stepping outside their jurisdiction" to call for a new election. He said the board shouldn't be "injecting ourselves" into a disputed count.
Incumbent Peter DeTerra was declared the winner by one vote in a recount on April 23, which was certified by the registrars April 24. Afterward, Ann De-
Nardis, the attorney for challenger John Wethington, wrote to selectmen asking them to seek a new election.
Mr. Wethington was initially declared the winner on election night April 1 and was sworn in by Town Clerk Eileen Lowney. Later that evening, Ms. Lowney counted more votes and declared Mr. DeTerra the winner by a small margin.
After discovering a mix-up in envelopes from Precinct 1 for write-ins and hand counts, she held a recount of those ballots on April 12, which Mr. DeTerra also won narrowly.
Ms. DeNardis has questioned the way ballots were handled by Ms. Lowney after the election. And the state Elections Division has been reviewing what it called "irregularities."
On Monday, Selectman Robert Espindola said he'd like to wait for a report from the state before deciding whether to call for a new election. He called the state investigation the "missing piece."
Town Counsel Thomas Crotty said the board has to be "careful about involvement in any elections." He said he was not aware of any town or city calling for one except in Boston when the voting machines failed in one precinct.
"The town can't require a new election," he said. "Usually a candidate appeals" to Superior Court.
Mr. Espindola asked how long the state was expected to take to issue its findings.
Mr. Crotty said the assistant counsel at the Elections Division would be out of the office until May 9. He said he didn't think the state Elections Division would call for a new election. He said it was more likely it was just "looking at having representatives come down and work with the clerk's office so the errors are not repeated."
Mr. Murphy said Ms. Lowney had already responded to questions submitted from the state and that training has already taken place.
Mr. Espindola said he still wanted to hear from the state and get a timeframe on how soon they might hear the results of the investigation.
Mr. Crotty said he would find out. Asked about keeping the records, he said the town clerk can destroy ballots after 30 days but that Ms. Lowney would hold onto the ballots until everything was "resolved."
Edward Markey, who represents Mr. DeTerra, said Mr. DeTerra had already been pronounced the winner three times. "People who are unsuccessful in elections have legal remedies they are free to pursue (and pay for)," he said, referring to going to court.
Mr. Markey said the town shouldn't have to pay the filing and legal fees "associated with a few loud people who are upset with the results of an election."
Of Mr. Wethington's supporters, including many from Windwise, he said, "There is no doubt that these individuals have the absolute legal right to challenge the result in Superior Court. However, the Fairhaven taxpayers should not be burdened with the significant costs associated with initiating and pursuing the potential litigation."
Mr. Haworth said legal fees associated with the recount had already totaled $6,000.
Asked if legal costs would be more depending on whether the town or Mr. Wethington went to court, Mr. Crotty said it would be about the same amount.
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