Judge weighs rescinded resignations from Warner Select Board
|Published: 07-20-2023 5:41 PM
A court hearing Thursday was intended to fill a vacant seat on Warner's town select board after two members resigned last week. But this appointment might not be necessary, if Judge Brian Tucker accepts that Christine Frost and Jody Sloane were able to rescind their resignations and retake their seats on the board.
On July 12, Frost resigned from her position following a meeting the night prior. Sloane then submitted her resignation as well.
With Harry Seidel left as the lone board member, Warner town government came to a halt due to the lack of a quorum.
However, Sloane and Frost returned to Town Hall Tuesday, when Seidel was providing an update on the status of a petition in court to fill one of the board vacancies, and rescinded their resignations.
“I am truly sorry for my resignation and what it has caused, the domino effect and disruption of the town,” Frost said at the meeting. “The attorney did ask us to come back. We are here. We are trying to move forward in a productive way for this community.”
During the brief meeting, Sloane and Frost passed a motion to fire Diane Ricciardelli, the town administrator. Though that action is not specifically before Tucker in Merrimack County Superior Court, it could hang in the balance if the women are disallowed from rejoining the board.
Immediately following the resignations last week, both women said that the town attorney Michael Courtney asked them to briefly rescind their resignations so they could appoint a new member to the board rather than petition the court to appoint a replacement.
Both Sloane and Frost said they agreed to do so. A meeting was set for Friday morning, however, hours prior, Seidel informed her that it was canceled. Instead, the town filed a motion with the court and a hearing date was set for Thursday, July 20.
With town government at a halt, the timeline to take action needed to be expedited, Seidel said. He needed the authority to do payroll and could not hold a meeting as a lone select board member.
“You resigned,” he said Tuesday. “In that situation, I was faced with no choice.”
Seidel maintained it was too late for Sloane and Frost to rescind their resignations.
Now, it will be up to Tucker to decide.
Attorney Ben Frost, who represents both Christine Frost and Sloane, filed a motion to intervene in the appointment, arguing it was unnecessary given the rescinded resignations.
There is no statute in New Hampshire law that advises what to do when members resign and then rescind, said Frost, who is married to Christine.
Instead, he pointed to a United States Supreme Court case, Edward vs. the United States, from 1880. The case involved a public officer in Michigan and stated that the resignation of that officer was not complete until the “proper authority” accepts it.
With Seidel as the lone select board member, and unable to conduct business, there was no acceptance of their resignations.
“This commonly occurs in municipal government, someone resigning in the heat of the moment, and that is frankly what occurred here,” said Ben Frost, who was chairman of the Planning Board and also resigned last week. “In the heat of the moment submitting a resignation and then thinking this is going to have repercussions. Lots of people want to rescind their resignations and they are commonly accepted.”
Courtney, the town attorney representing Warner, argued that resignations can’t be rescinded.
A case from 1891, the Attorney General vs Marston, stated that when a town official resigns, their resignation will be accepted by the town selectman or others. However, Courtney continued that since this ruling, the requirement for the resignation to be accepted in order to be effective has since been removed.
“There is certainly not an added duty on a selectmen of a town to accept the resignation. In this case, two select members resigned,” he said.
Tucker will now consider the motion to dismiss the case, which would mean that the resignations were rescinded and Christine and Sloane remain on the select board. If he rejects this motion, then Minton will be appointed.
A ruling will be reached at an unspecified later date.