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October 22. 2012 9:30PM

Election of city moderator to school board questioned in Franklin

FRANKLIN — School board officials have filed a complaint with the state questioning the election this month of the city’s moderator to the school board, citing an alleged conflict of interest.

In city elections on Oct. 2, Tamara Feener was elected to a Ward 2 school board seat by way of a write-in campaign against the only candidate that had filed to run, Donald A. Gagnon. Feener won with 42 write-in votes to Gagnon’s 35 votes.

Feener had been a school board member since she was appointed to the board in February by the city council after another board member resigned.

Feener also won reelection as the city moderator with 79 votes in an uncontested race.

Her husband, City Councilor Glen Feener, was unchallenged and was also reelected.

City officials checked with the city’s attorney prior to the election to be sure that Tamara Feener’s potential election to the school board would not be a conflict of interest, and has checked with the city’s attorney since the election, and both times they were assured that legally there was no conflict of interest, said Mayor Ken Merrifield.

“The question has been answered to my satisfaction,” Merrifield said. “Though it may not be answered to the satisfaction of others.”

But school officials disagree, and say the state agrees.

“We had the wife of one of our city councilors appointed to the school board even though she holds the elected position of the moderator for the city that oversees the election of school board members,” said Ray Yonaitis, chair of the city’s school board.

In a response to a question about the potential conflict of interest on Oct. 1, Deputy Secretary of State David M. Scanlan said, “To the extent that both positions exist within the same political subdivision, and the city moderator oversees school district elections, I would agree with your assessment that the positions would be incompatible (under state law).”

“In the event a candidate finds that after an election he or she holds incompatible offices; that candidate must choose one, creating a vacancy in the other,” Scanlon wrote.

“I think the secretary of state’s opinion trumps the city attorney’s opinion,” Kathleen Russo, chairman of the SAU 18 school board, which also includes the Hill school system, said.

In addition, school board members question whether it was legal for Glen Feener to campaign for his wife’s write-in candidacy for the school board.

“Mr. Feener was electioneering,” said Russo.

“This family and the city government apparently are above the rest of us,” Russo said. “She’s been sitting in that seat illegally since February. The residents of Franklin are being bullied by their own city council.”

dseufert@newstote.com


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