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Supreme Court Finds that the Town of Brattleboro did not Improperly Influence Voting to Amend the Town Charter

In Kurt Daims & Craig Newbert v. Town of Brattleboro, 2016 VT 55 (April 29, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the granting of the Town of Brattleboro’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the Town selectboard did not unlawfully interfere with an election on plaintiffs’ petitions to change the town charter.

Issue: Plaintiffs, residents of Brattleboro, had submitted three petitions to amend the town charter before the March 3, 2015 town meeting. After plaintiffs submitted their petitions, the selectboard decided to endorse and sent out an information sheet regarding the petitions to local media outlets, town meeting representatives, members of the selectboard, town staff, and anyone else who requested it. Plaintiffs’ petitions were defeated at the meeting, and they subsequently filed suit, alleging that the selectboard interfered with the election. The superior court granted the Town’s motion for summary judgment, and plaintiffs appealed.

Holding: The Court affirmed the superior court’s decision to grant the motion for summary judgment, finding that the selectboard’ s ability to send out the information sheet at issue was impliedly allowed under both the statute requiring public hearings before votes on proposed town charter amendments and the town charter itself. The selectboard commented in good faith on the proposed amendments and did not improperly influence the election.

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