Gardner Government Watch

February 22, 2022

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About Contributing Journalist Scott J. Graves in his own words

Scott J. Graves, Esq., B.S. Biology, M.S. Pharmacology, J.D. Law – Father, Born-and-Bred Gardnerien-American, Gardner Native of Acadien Heritage, Gardner High School Class of 1982, Gardner Citizen-Voter, Gardner Homeowner/Taxpayer, 30-year Gardner Business Owner, 30-year Gardner Lawyer, former 16-year Gardner City Councillor, former Gardner City Council President, and former Gardner City Solicitor and Head of the City of Gardner Law Department.

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GARDNER GOVERNMENT WATCH

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”

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City Council and School Committee Holds Joint Convention to Prematurely End James Boone’s Present Term on the Monty Tech School Committee Two Years Early

The City Council and the Gardner School Committee had a Joint Convention the other night, Tuesday, February 22, 2022.

They met together to vote for two new Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School’s (Monty Tech’s) School Committee Members from Gardner.

The City of Gardner has two seats on Monty Tech’s School Committee.  They were held by Matt Vance (former Gardner City Councillor) and James Boone (who is a present Gardner City Councillor).

Mr. Vance’s 4-year term was up.  He was running for re-election.  But, the Joint Convention elected Eric Commodore instead of Vance this time around.  In the prior election, it was the other way around – where Vance beat out Commodore in 2018.

What had the Citizens’ scratching their heads was the fact that Mr. Boone’s present term on the Monty Tech School Committee does not expire for another two years.

Mr. Boone was duly elected by this same Joint Convention on February 18, 2020.  The approved Minutes of that Joint Convention state that Mr. Boone was unanimously elected for a 4-year term, set to expire on “February 18, 2024.”

No one disputes this.

But, the information obtained by Gardner Government Watch is that government officials made the decision that because the Gardner City Clerk never gave Mr. Boone his oath of office for the Monty Tech school board seat, his election was not valid.

The real head-scratcher is that no one can point to any law that provides any support for this.  Elections are not so easily eradicated without an act of congress, literally.

Yet, the City Council and the School Committee were all ready to meet and vote for someone else.

That someone else happens to be Eric Commodore’s son, Alex Commodore.

The Commodores are family relatives of Mayor Michael Nicholson.

Gardner Government Watch obtained information that Mr. Boone had requested that the City Clerk, Titi Siriphan, simply swear him in.  Mr. Boone states that he has always been willing to do so.  There is no information from the City to contradict any part of this.  

According to public records obtained by Gardner Government Watch, Mr. Boone requested from City Clerk Titi Siriphan information about how someone could make this legal ruling that his 4-year term was somehow terminated in year two.  

City Clerk Siriphan responded, in writing (which is a public record): “I got (sic) notification from someone at Monty Tech . . . . Enjoy the long weekend.”

The City Clerk then scheduled the Joint Session of the Gardner City Council and the Gardner School Committee.

The City Clerk does not have this authority under the City Charter and City Ordinances, so Gardner Government Watch has requested the name(s) of the city officials who gave her authority to do this.  GGW has not yet obtained a response. 

The City Clerk’s legal position regarding Mr. Boone’s election, which she wrote in a public record, is this:

“the timeline between the appointment and now is considered lapsed per vacancy laws. This is similar to what was done for the regular school committee in 2015.”

There are no “vacancy laws” in this Commonwealth, or in Gardner.  The Clerk does not explain what her legal opinion of “lapse” is.  Mr. Boone has been an acting Monty Tech School Committee member since his election in 2020, and has made countless votes from that position.

Mr. Boone requested to take his oath of office, and Clerk Siriphan refused.  Gardner Government Watch has requested information from Clerk Siriphan as to who told her she could not give Mr. Boone his oath of office. To date, we have not received any information from the city.

Under the Gardner Charter and ordinances, whenever the City Council elects anyone to any City position (in this case, it’s one of the two City of Gardner seats on the Monty Tech School Committee) it is the Clerk’s role to make sure the elected person is duly sworn in (takes his oath of office).

But, Mr. Boone’s election in February of 2020 was at the beginning of the COVID-19 chaos.  Mr. Boone’s swearing-in inadvertently fell through the cracks in the middle of the turmoil of the virus and societal shut-down.

At that time, Governor Baker issued a series of States of Emergency which prohibited in-person contact.  The Governor’s said prohibitions expressly preserved and stayed (put off) all legal time periods during the Pandemic – including Mr. Boone’s swearing-in.

City Clerk Siriphan’s legal opinion, in which she uses this so-called “lapse” of time as grounds to refuse to swear-in Mr. Boone, clashes with Governor Baker’s COVID-19 Emergency Orders. Clerk Siriphan is not a lawyer.

Gardner Government Watch has obtained information that the City Clerk made no attempt to remind Mr. Boone during this time frame that he had to take his oath of office – which, under Governor Baker’s Emergency Orders could have been easily accomplished remotely (by Zoom) in minutes.

Two years later, it appears that someone has exploited this Pandemic/COVID-19 related oversight to exact a political advantage.  Our sister editorial publication, GRAVITAS, has more to say about this.

Apart from Governor Baker’s Emergency Orders, there is no set time period within which someone like Mr. Boone (or any City Councillor or any Mayor – according to the Gardner City Solicitor, John Flick) must take his oath of office.  

The City Solicitor, John Flick, has used City Charter Section 23 for his reasoning in this regard.  

According to John Flick, it is the election that matters.  The election controls, not the taking of the oath, according to Flick.  For example, according to John Flick, when Mayor Hawke was elected as Mayor in 2019, and quit before being sworn in, Flick ruled that the Mayor’s seat could not be “vacant” until Hawke expressly “resigned.”  Flick’s legal position was that Hawke never had to take the oath of office during the entire two-year term, and Hawke still would have been Mayor of Gardner.  Flick ruled that that was because Hawke had been duly elected – and the oath didn’t matter.

Mr. Boone, like Hawke, was duly elected. Mr. Boone, like Hawke, has not resigned. Mr. Boone is willing to take the oath of office. This certainly has the appearance that what was all right for Hawke, is not right for Boone.

John Flick has yet to respond to Gardner Government Watch on this subject – though Gardner Government Watch has a request out to him for a response.

The City Council had arranged this Joint Convention to eliminate Mr. Boone’s current term of office – despite the fact that no one disputes that Mr. Boone’s term  has another two years left on it.

The matter was put off to a future date.  A motion was made, amidst the furor over this (including by Gardner Government Watch), to get a letter from Monty Tech’s legal counsel that Mr. Boone’s 4-year term as School Committee member is legally “vacant” because the City Clerk never gave him his oath of office.

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