Addison Selectboard Member Kept Serving Because Nobody Realized His Term Was Up | Media | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Addison Selectboard Member Kept Serving Because Nobody Realized His Term Was Up


Published February 14, 2024 at 6:06 p.m.

Peter Briggs - COURTESY
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  • Peter Briggs

No one in the Town of Addison, population 1,337, noticed that Peter Briggs was serving an extra year on its selectboard — not even Briggs himself.

That is, until the board convened in late January. While planning for Town Meeting Day, its members noticed something strange: Only one selectboard seat was up for election. The five-person board — made up of three, three-year positions and two, two-year positions — should’ve had two open seats. Members soon realized that Briggs, elected in March 2021 for a two-year term, was serving a third year.

“Everybody in town missed it,” Briggs said. “Including myself.”

The problem was traced back to 2021, when the then-town clerk incorrectly recorded when Brigg’s two-year term would start: Instead of 2021, the clerk wrote 2022, said Roger Waterman, chair of the selectboard.

Shortly afterward, Cheri Waterman — Roger's wife — took over the position of town clerk. In the 2022 and 2023 reports, she made the same mistake, indicating Briggs' term was to expire in 2024 rather than 2023.

Briggs, who has served on the selectboard since 2015, said he simply didn’t realize that he was supposed to be up for reelection in 2023. He blames the pandemic.

“I usually don’t have any issue remembering when I should be running, because every other year, I have to go out and get petitions — which is quite memorable,” Briggs said. But in 2021, during the pandemic, the town did not require candidates to collect signatures.

“When you have a perfect storm of things that happen, sometimes you get unexpected results,” Roger Waterman said when Seven Days asked about the oversight.

Briggs attended the board's monthly meetings after his term expired in March 2023. He discussed issues and voted as a member.

Roger Waterman said that as soon as he realized the mistake, he reached out to the Vermont League of Cities & Towns for guidance. The League told him to hold an election for a one-year selectboard position. That's to finish the term that voters should have filled last year — which will put the board back on its proper electoral calendar. Waterman also looked back at the selectboard’s decisions over the past year to see whether Briggs had swayed any close votes. According to Waterman, he did not.

With the one-year position on Addison's Town Meeting Day ballot, Briggs and Waterman consider the issue resolved.

“If somebody in town thinks this is so terrible, they’re welcome to take it to court as far as I’m concerned,” Briggs said.

In fact, Briggs has continued to attend selectboard meetings and cast votes even after town officials realized his term was up. Briggs said he has already cashed a check for his $800 annual stipend for serving and has no plans to return it. "I don't have a problem taking it because I have done a lot of work," he said.

On Front Porch Forum, townspeople are voicing their displeasure with the slipup.

“It is entirely reasonable to expect elected officials to know when their terms of office expire,” a person posted on February 9. “To lose sight of this seems to me to be unaccountable."

In another post that same day, Briggs defended himself: “You can rest assured that I would much rather of ran last year when there was no opponents last time verses now when every one and his brother is in this race,” he wrote. “I find all this a bit ungrateful for this rare opportunity to really change the direction of government with the rare opportunity to change 3 out of 5 board members.”

Briggs is running against Levi Barrett for the special one-year selectboard term.

Waterman, meanwhile, voiced frustration with the online discourse. He thinks residents are being unreasonable. Said Waterman, “It’s almost like they forgot that they had all the information all along.”

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