Board dispute boils over after Chichester town meeting

Monitor staff
Published: 5/15/2021 4:48:29 PM

Officials in Chichester breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday, thankful that their annual town meeting, full of potential for fireworks because of recent infighting on the select board, wrapped up after two-hours of civil discourse.

Then, minutes after the meeting had ended, a heated, demonstrative face-off occurred between Select Board members Richard Bouchard and Jason Weir, causing the issue over Weir’s eligibility to serve on the board to resurface.

Most of the residents had filed out of Chichester Elementary School by the time the two board members revisited an old feud that’s been bubbling for months. The scene overshadowed the $2.78 million budget that had just been approved, with some spirited yet reasonable debates over taxes and their connection to capital reserve funds, highway and rescue equipment, and a purchase and sales agreement.

But many voices in town have expressed dismay over Weirs’s spot on the Select Board, and it wasn’t long before the two men – who had sat in close proximity, both flanked by Board Chairman Ed Millette, for two hours – moved to the side of the gym.

Among other things, Bouchard was upset that Weir had monopolized the first few minutes of the meeting, reading a speech that gave his version of why he remained a Chichester resident while sleeping elsewhere.

After the meeting, they pointed fingers at one another. Weir tossed out a few F-words during the argument, which lasted at least five minutes.

Bouchard told Weir that he was moving forward with an investigation that he and others in Chichester hope will prove once and for all that Weir is literally overstepping his boundaries by voting in town and remaining on the board.

Once Weir learned from Bouchard that he and other officials were still trying to change his residency status, he said, “Well, then do something about it. I dare you.”

The conflict first surfaced when Weir, a lawful resident of Chichester, moved to Loudon to live with his girlfriend during his divorce proceedings. Obviously, Weir’s spot on the board and right to vote would be forfeited without his Chichester residency.

The law has always been vague in its definition of domicile and residency. Weir’s critics have said his residence is where he sleeps. Weir countered by saying his residence is where his mail is sent and where he picks up his children for school, although a restraining order filed by his wife is supposed to keep Weir from having that kind of access.

Kristy Willey, the town’s administrative assistant, had no qualms about expressing how she views Weirs’s behavior.

“Do you see what’s happening over there?” Willey asked, pointing at the two animated figures just a few feet away. “That happens all the time.”

Weir has been arguing for months that the board is targeting him, while others bypass the statute as they please with no repercussions. He said the owners of homes that burn down often sleep in another town. And he mentioned other evidence that he believes shows extreme bias by the board.

“How many people are living in a camper? Weir asked Bouchard. “You drive around town and say, ‘Look, there’s (a camper), and there’s one right there.’ And you choose to ignore those.”

This is not the first time that Weir has caused a major uproar in town. Last month, he refused to wear a mask at a board meeting a week after he had agreed to do so.

Residents who had shown up for that meeting were upset that they were forced to leave the meeting and juggle their own plans to ensure they could make the meeting that had been postponed because of Weir’s reluctance to follow school and town policy.

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