2012-05-24 / Front Page

Former councilor named moderator

Barbara Szepatowski will be in charge of June 4 FTM
BY TIM RIEL

Aside from speculation over the weekend on who would be the new town moderator, Barbara Szepatowski is expected to be named to the position this morning at a special Town Council meeting.

Szepatowski received two writein votes during the 2009 election, falling well short of Jim Donnelly’s count, the only candidate listed on the ballot. In a letter sent to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, Donnelly said that he would be unable to moderate the Financial Town Meeting on Monday, June 4, due to complications from recent back surgery. In order for the town to appoint a replacement, Donnelly resigned his position.

Rumors began spreading when Town Councilor Bob Bowen sent out an email earlier this week saying that Ernie Savastano would be named town moderator, saying he was the next highest finisher with eight write-in votes. In an email on Monday, Keiser sent a letter to the Town Council saying, “In the 2009 election, Ernest Savastano received eight write-in votes for moderator. The town’s canvassing records document that Mr. Savastano was the second highest vote getter for this elected position. The Town Charter reads that the person with the second most votes ‘shall be elevated’ to an elective office if a vacancy occurs.”

Keiser also said that he spoke with Savastano, who agreed to serve as moderator for the annual budget meeting.

But in a meeting Tuesday with Town Clerk Cheryl Fernstrom and Canvassing Clerk Karen Montoya, Keiser discovered records that showed Savastano wasn’t the next highest vote getter. In fact, no one but Donnelly received more than two votes.

Keiser said about 20 write-in candidates received a single vote, including the occasional “Mickey Mouse” ballots. But tied at the top with two votes each was Szepatowski and Conservation Commission Chairman Emeritus Chris Powell.

After a conversation with Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero, Keiser learned that if one of the two were to decline, then the position would be deferred to the remaining candidate. Powell told Keiser that he wasn’t interested in the job, and Szepatowski accepted. If the former town councilor is appointed by the council, then she only needs to be certified by the Board of Canvassers.

“I had no idea I was even running for the position until I got a phone call,” quipped Powell. “I love to serve the town, but I have to admit that I have no interest in being the moderator.”

Keiser said that Szepatowski told him that she would look at video recordings from previous Financial Town Meetings to learn more about the moderator’s role.

“She’s taking her role very seriously,” said Keiser.

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