Underhill says ‘yes’ to recalling selectboard member
UNDERHILL, Vt. (WCAX) - Voters in Underhill made state history Tuesday, recalling a sitting selectboard member.
Voters overwhelmingly voted to recall Peter Duval by a margin of 570 to 23.
“When you get 96% of the voters to say your time is over, I think that speaks loudly,” said Kurt Johnson, a former selectboard member.
Duval was elected on Town Meeting Day last year through write-ins in an uncontested race. After he was elected, former selectboard members say he violated Underhill’s conflict of interest policy. And town staff also allege he was verbally abusive toward staff and other selectboard members.
“He would try to throw a wrench in every topic that would come up at the selectboard meeting,” said Jennifer Silpe-Katz, Underhill’s finance officer.
They say the former town administrator even resigned because of conflict with Duval. So, last July staff began drafting a town charter change allowing for the recall of an elected officer. Voters gave it the green light on Town Meeting Day. Lawmakers in Montpelier also gave it the seal of approval and the governor signed it into law.
Sixteen towns in Vermont have charter recall amendments on the books. But with Tuesday’s special election, Underhill became the first town in Vermont history to actually use it.
Duval declined to directly address the alleged conflict of interest or mistreatment of town employees but says “It’s impossible to prove a negative.” Duval also says he’s relieved with the vote. “I thought maybe the yes committee had gone too far, I mean a lot too far, so I was relieved,” he said. He also says the recall could have implications for other four-year officeholders. “That could be really destabilizing I think.’
Underhill staff say they’re glad the vote is over too. They say the pandemic put more eyes on local government through streaming platforms, allowing for more transparency and more accountability. “People have written us letters of support, called us, said ‘we’re rooting for you,’ and then came out yesterday and voted,” Silpe-Katz said.
Town leaders are now in the process of finding a temporary replacement for Duval until they can elect a permanent replacement on Town Meeting Day.
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