He should have thought of this before he quit in the first place

  • From left to right, Tom Smith, James Cornwell, Richard Sheridan, Ryan Mailloux and Jane Peirce of the Orange Selectboard discuss the town administrator search. File photo

Published: 11/11/2018 7:09:09 PM
Modified: 11/11/2018 7:09:10 PM

Over the years, we’ve seen lots of return engagements — school board members and selectmen who return to serve their towns after a hiatus of a few years. Usually, they are talked into an encore by supporters looking for good candidates for seats that often go begging — and so these old hands stand for election again.

But we’ve never seen a situation where a selectman who has resigned returns six months later and asks for his seat back — as did Richard Sheridan, who was in his fourth term as a member of the Orange Selectboard when he rather abruptly announced his resignation on May 2 following some disagreements over hiring a town administrator.

Since then, Ryan Mailloux has taken over as chairman and the remaining members have soldiered on, planning to fill Sheridan’s vacancy in the March annual town election. Waiting another four months, rather than calling for a special election, will likely save the town several thousand dollars.

But Sheridan contends that his resignation was never formally accepted by the Selectboard and therefore is invalid, and now wants to withdraw his resignation and get back in the game

In making his case, he argued that his resignation technically is invalid because his board never formally read the resignation letter into the record at a meeting and never sent him a thank-you-for-your-service note.

And he told his former peers he didn’t resign just because he differed with the other four over whom to hire as town administrator, although that sure seemed the case at the time. Back then he announced his resignation in public following a meeting where he endorsed a candidate different than his colleagues, who all voted for Gabriele Voelker to take the position. Sheridan did not initially give a reason for his resignation, but said recently that health problems, not just “political” issues, led to his decision.

“I was voted to represent the people of Orange, and I felt I wasn’t doing the proper job at the time, and that I would resign for health reasons as well,” Sheridan said recently. “I assumed there would be representation. This board chose not to (hold a special election), and I feel that that’s depriving the people of proper representation.”

He says his health is better now, and he is fit to sit on the Selectboard and bring more “diversity” of opinion.

But the town’s lawyer says that the resignation was indeed valid because Sheridan turned in a letter to the town clerk, as prescribed by state law. So that’s that.

We think if you resign, that cuts the thread between you and the people who elected you for that particular term of office.

In our view, Mailloux correctly concluded that the Selectboard cannot bring Sheridan back because the voters — not the Selectboard — are the appointing authority.

With four members remaining, we think there will be ample representation and diversity on the board to get the town through the next four months. Perhaps this shows the wisdom of expanding the board to five members in recent years.

There is an easy resolution to Sheridan’s desire to serve again. He can stand for election in March, and let the voters decide.

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