*SAU 18 school board files complaint with attorney general’s office against board member
The SAU 18 school board in Franklin has filed a formal complaint with the attorney general’s office against Tamara Feener, a school board member and ward moderator, alleging she cannot legally hold both positions simultaneously.
Kathleen Russo, chairwoman of the SAU 18 school board, filed the complaint Oct. 17. Matt Mavrogeorge, assistant attorney general, said the office received the complaint on Friday and it is in the process of reviewing it. The complaint alleges that Feener is violating a statute that states: “No person holding the office of member of the school board shall at the same time hold the office of district moderator, treasurer, or auditor.”
But Feener and the city’s lawyer say the statute does not apply to her because she is a city moderator who supervises elections in one ward, not a district moderator, which Franklin does not have.
Feener was appointed to the school board by the city council in February when a seat became vacant. Her husband, Glen Feener, serves on the city council. At the time she was also moderator for Ward 2, a position she has held for more than 20 years. In the city elections Oct. 2, she won re-election both to the school board – by nine votes in a write-in campaign – and to her post as Ward 2 moderator, for which she was unopposed.
Feener held both positions simultaneously in the late 1990s and was never challenged then for violating the law, she said.
The school board raised questions about whether Feener could legally hold both positions in September, when attorney William Upton sent a letter to David Scanlan, deputy secretary of state, asking for an opinion. Scanlan responded Oct. 1, saying he agreed with the *schools’s assessment because the moderator and school board member exist within the same political subdivision. He also said that in a situation where a person holds two incompatible offices, he or she must vacate one. In Franklin, the school board is an entity within the city.
Because it’s the same subdivision, “you could come to the conclusion that the office of city moderator and school board is incompatible,” he said in an interview.
Scanlan’s opinion is not a formal ruling, but was included in the complaint materials filed with the attorney general’s office.
The SAU board brought the allegations to the attention of Feener and the city council, and decided to file a formal complaint with the attorney general’s office when Feener remained in both positions.
“It affects the integrity of the board,” Russo said. She and others affiliated with the school, including Superintendent Maureen Ward, say the board could be in legal trouble if any school board votes that Feener participates in are challenged.
Feener said she does not believe she’s in violation of the law because she is not a school district moderator, and her role as Ward 2 moderator gives her no jurisdiction over school board meetings. As the moderator for Ward 2, Feener oversees voting that does include voting for the school board. “An election moderator runs elections — that’s all we do,” she said.
The city’s attorney, Paul Fitzgerald, agreed that Feener is not subject to the statute because the wording specifically says “district moderator.” When constructing statutes, he said, the words “have very specific meaning unless there is a clear and overriding reason to view them otherwise. In this particular case the legislation specifically chose to say district moderator. It could have said district, ward or city moderator, but chose not to.”
*An earlier version of this story misstated Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan’s opinion. Scanlan agreed with the school’s assessment. The headline also misstated the the board which filed the complaint. The chair of the SAU 18 board filed the complaint