Suzanne Caraman fills vacant seat on Pownal board

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POWNAL — A vacant seat on the Select Board has officially been filled, weeks after the board voted on a replacement.

Suzanne Caraman, a member of the board from May 2016 to March 2018, was sworn in last Thursday, replacing Jenny Dewar, a first-term board member who resigned last month.

"I'm just looking forward to it, and I'm excited to be able to help out," she said.

Caraman's term will last until the town election in March; she began her position after being sworn in.

Dewar's resignation letter had requested this appointment. Though the board voted 3-1 at its Nov. 8 meeting to appoint Caraman, the town one week later published a legal ad seeking candidates for the vacancy.

The ad, published in the Banner on Nov. 14, did not include a deadline date. Interested parties were asked to send a letter of interest to the board.

No one applied for the position; one person expressed interest but never submitted any paperwork, said Michael Walker, town administrator.

That ad has been removed from the town's website, and is no longer being published in the Banner, Walker said.

"We've already appointed and sworn in [Caraman]," he said. If someone replies to the ad, they'll be told the position is not available, he said.

Caraman was sworn in after Select Board Vice Chairman Jason Olansky called him, Walker said. Olansky said that the appointment had been done legally, and Caraman should be sworn in by Town Clerk Julie Weber.

"It was just a matter of convenience, when they both [Caraman and Weber] were available," Walker said.

Caraman's appointment was beset by several complaints, including one sent in an email minutes after the meeting when the board voted to appoint Caraman.

Caraman said she heard a rumor that there was "shady politics" in the process of appointing her. "It was no such thing," she said. "Everything was done properly."

"It's within the law," Walker previously told the Banner of the appointment of Caraman. "Any citizen can think whatever they want — approve, disapprove ... that's all up to the individual."

The administrative assistant to the town administrator, Linda Sciarappa, placed the legal ad at Walker's direction, he said in an email.

State laws govern what should be done in the event a town officer's post becomes vacant. One section states that notice of the vacancy must be posted by the applicable legislative body in at least two public places in town, and in or near the town clerk's office, within 10 days of the vacancy.

State law also requires that, when a vacancy occurs in any town office, the board "forthwith" appoint someone in writing to fill the vacancy until an election is held.

After receiving complaints, Walker said he reached out to the town's attorney to ask if the town had acted in compliance with the law. The attorney said it had, Walker said.

"The board literally had a copy of the law at the board meeting when they were discussing what to do," Walker previously said of the meeting.

Robert "Bob" Jarvis voted against Caraman's appointment, while Ron Bisson, Vice Chairman Jason Olansky and Chairman Nelson Brownell voted in favor.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.




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