Town officials resign in Chelsea following heated town meeting

Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 10:20 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2022 at 6:39 PM EST
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CHELSEA, Vt. (WCAX) - The small town of Chelsea is in disarray after most of the select board quit after a contentious town meeting.

It all started when the Chelsea town foreman verbally quit following a letter of possible termination sent to him by the former select board. Townsfolk were angry and took out their frustrations during a town meeting last week. So four of the five select board members quit.

“I’ve lived in this town my whole life, and last Thursday was the first time in my life I’ve been scared by a crowd in this, which was whipped up by certain people,” said Merrill Whitney, one of the four select board members who stepped away following last Thursday’s town meeting.

Town officials declined an interview Tuesday but issued a press release that said, “The town of Chelsea is operating with the pending resignation of four select board members,” including Whitney.

“When things like this happen there is the power to act as a town continues,” said Paul Gillies, a municipal attorney out of Montpelier.

Gillies says in this case, per Vermont law, the town should post in two places there are four openings on the select board. He says a special election can be called to elect new select board members.

“This is part of sort of a safety net, I suppose,” Gillies said.

Before that happens, the one remaining select board member has a few responsibilities.

“The remaining member in Chelsea has the power to act on drawing orders and making payments, and to warn a special meeting,” Gillies explained.

“A lot is happening really fast, so we just need to know exactly what is going on,” said Steven Thomas of Chelsea.

Thomas says he hopes communication from the town gets better as the situation progresses, but one question does linger: “How to get a select board back in place to get bills paid and get things in order,” Thomas said.

Whitney says it’s the lack of order that he can’t forget, including when a town member shook his fist in his face.

“At this point, I’m just very disappointed in the townspeople,” Whitney said.

The one remaining select board member, Geoff Clayton, says a special election for those four open seats will be held on Jan. 3.

Gillies says those newly elected select board members would serve only until Town Meeting Day in March when voters would pick members to serve a full term.

As for the road foreman, the select board never accepted his resignation, so he’s back on the job just in time for the first snowstorm.