Court Sides with Region 14 on NHS Referendum Vote

The towns of Woodbury and Bethlehem challenged the validity of the referendum and its results, but a superior court judge ruled in favor of the school district.

A Litchfield Superior Court judge has ruled against the towns of Woodbury and Bethlehem in a lawsuit that claimed the referendum to renovate Nonnewaug High School was invalid.

The towns of Woodbury and Bethlehem asked the court to invalidate the referendum vote from June 18 of this year, which authorized the Board of Education to bond approximately $63 million for renovations of and additions to Nonnewaug High School.

There was just a four-vote margin in the referendum — 1269 for to 1265 against — to appropriate the funds and move forward with the construction project. 

According to the court's decision, rendered Dec. 9, the towns argued that the referendum was not properly publicized via a legal notice in a local paper of substantial circulation.

Though voters were not warned of the referendum through the publication of a legal notice, according to the court's decision, Judge John W. Pickard concluded that it was sufficiently noticed through the publication of several articles in Voices and the Republican-American newspapers.

Judge Pickard ordered the towns to send the referendum results to the state so they can be certified. 

Woodbury Town Attorney Paul Jessell and Region 14 Superintendent Jody Ian Goeler were not immediately available for comment Thursday.

A discussion of the matter is on the agenda for Thursday's Woodbury Board of Selectmen meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the Shove Building.

dave December 12, 2013 at 06:26 PM
Let's see if the first selectmen will do the right thing and appeal this ridicules ruling!
Voice of Reason December 13, 2013 at 08:43 AM
Another bad precedent set by ignoring the Process. Bad decision.
Hope Watson December 13, 2013 at 08:52 AM
Sure, dave, let's spend more money on lawyers tilting at windmills. But there is hope! The second action (Waterbury court) is still alive, and those good citizens and patriots are demanding compensation for their violated constitutional rights. If that fails, maybe we can generate another special election so the economic rights of the taxpayers most certainly can be violated. Let's move on, please.
dave December 13, 2013 at 08:59 AM
Move on??? All the parties involved agreed it was an illegal vote on a project that's a complete joke. A dopey judge allows them to get away with it and now my taxes will go thru the roof for a wasted project! Move on? I think not!
Voice of Reason December 13, 2013 at 09:16 AM
There is already precedent set in CT for a Court to validate a vote that wasn't Legally Noticed. However, I'm not aware of any cases where the vote was so close. Passing by a four vote margin combined with the Notice issue and I only see one clear ruling; Judge Pickard felt otherwise.
Diana December 13, 2013 at 01:03 PM
I am thoroughly disgusted with this decision by the judge. I highly doubt our new selectman will appeal the decision. I can only hope that those with the pending case in Waterbury's courts will continue to pursue their action. There are many in town that do rely on the legal notices for dates. That is what they are there for. All this says to the BOE is that they no longer need to play by the rules. I would not be surprised to see them use this tactic again in the future now. Setting signs on main street means nothing. I can say that I am rarely in town to see any of the signs. Articles in newspapers ? I don't subscribe to any. An article in the voices is NOT a legal notification of an official vote date.
James Welcome December 13, 2013 at 01:58 PM
"Dopey Judge?" Nonsense and ignorance. Judge Pickard is one of the most respected Judges in the state.
dave December 13, 2013 at 02:02 PM
It was never in the legal section section any paper as required by law. So yes, Dopey Judge!
James Welcome December 13, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Dave, great argument. Now, read the actual legal opinion as to why that doesn't matter.
dave December 13, 2013 at 02:49 PM
I have read it.
Joe December 13, 2013 at 07:29 PM
I agree with James Welcome & Judge Picard, don't invalidate results on a technicality unless you can prove one side was given an unfair advantage. I am upset it wasn't legally noticed, if it was we would have won by more.
dave December 13, 2013 at 08:46 PM
Technicality???? WOW!!!! And trust me, if more people knew about the 63 million dollar scam, this never would have happened!!!
Voice of Reason December 13, 2013 at 09:22 PM
Joe sez: "I am upset it wasn't legally noticed, if it was we would have won by more." Well, then why not push to toss the vote and redo it? Show all the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing Neanderthals how Progressive Woodbury really is! Oh, and let's tell the taxpayers the truth on the actual cost this time around too. Open and honest (ahem...|ˈänist| adjective free of deceit and untruthfulness) this time. ;)
Jerry Plant December 13, 2013 at 09:44 PM
Wait until the voters realize just how much of this $63 million is not reimbursable. Only education related items. Athletic Fields - Nope ! New Parking Lot and Driveway - Nope! New Auditorium - Nope! New Windows - Nope ! New Locker Room - Nope ! New Security Measures - Nope ! Many other non-educational items - Nope ! Hold onto to wallets taxpayers.
Sean December 14, 2013 at 12:15 AM
State Law requires a legal notice. There was not one. End of discussion.
James A. Welcome December 14, 2013 at 05:21 AM
Wrong. State law requires 1. That a legal warning be "published" and 2. That the losers in the election prove actual prejudice. No do - overs folks. Pickards opinion is excellent and will no doubt withstand an appeal.
Jon Quint December 14, 2013 at 06:48 AM
Why would anybody in today's world think that just because something is not done according to the letter of the law. it can be upheld as legal? That right there is the problem we have in this country today. The laws AND the Constitution are getting stretched to their limits by legislators and judges, and nobody seems to give a damn. "If I want it, I don't care if it's not legal or right, let's find a way to get it!" is the attitude way too prevalent today!
dave December 14, 2013 at 07:11 AM
Jon, you hit the nail on the head. And that's what this teaches our kids. If you can't get what you want, manipulate the system until you get it.
Diana December 14, 2013 at 11:25 AM
The BOE, IF they were respectable and trustworthy, would do the right thing and legally notice it and hold another referendum. But they won't because they aren't trustworthy, honest or respectable and have always tried to push through their agenda despite what the people in town want. In my opinion, they purposefully kept information on this vote limited to those they knew would likely be in favor of it, but got called out on it. Example, using the school alert system to notify parents of the vote, while leaving out the rest of the town using the excuse that an article about it in the paper is sufficient. Why on earth would anyone expect a date, buried deep in an article somewhere in a local paper, to contain the information they needed regarding an extremely important vote. You go to the legal section to find the dates quickly and LEGALLY. No one should be expected to read every article in the news paper to obtain legal information, and that is what the BOE is saying. Sorry - you didn't read the article so it's your fault you didn't know about the vote. Completely disgusting bully tactics by the BOE, as usual.
Voice of Reason December 14, 2013 at 12:01 PM
@ Diana. You mention schools notifying parents of votes which has been brought up several times by others also. This, not surprisingly, contrasts to the majority of senior citizens that I've spoken with that read the Legal Notices looking for such information. Without the Legal Notice a fairly large segment of the actual voting population may not have been aware of when the vote would be held. The actions of Region 14 (Superintendent of Schools Jody Goeler stated publicly that the lack of a letter [directing the town clerks to notice the referendum] was an oversight by Regional District #14) could be viewed essentially as being engaged in voter suppression, after all it's well established that many seniors are on fixed incomes and are against tax increases so don't make them aware of the vote under their established venue. Brilliant move really.
Diana December 14, 2013 at 02:09 PM
VOR - yes, it would appear that the BOE knew EXACTLY what they were doing. Accidentally forgot to give the towns the request to legally notice the referendum? I think not. They will refuse to do the right thing though because they fear it will not pass if it is presented legally.
Sean December 14, 2013 at 08:57 PM
My claim from the beginning is if something is a good idea, make the case and get community buy in. Instead the Board lies, distorts, and manipulates to get what they want (nice lesson for the children). But then again, the region re-elects people like this. Gary Suslavich did a stand up job representing the interests of the towns and he was not supported. As with Butterly, elections have consequences.


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