Legislation needed to make Monday election in Southampton valid; Southampton elects Domina town clerk

Last modified: Tuesday, May 06, 2014
SOUTHAMPTON — Voters Monday elected Janine M. Domina the new town clerk, re-elected Treasurer/Collector Donna Whiteley and unseated an incumbent in electing James Walunas water commissioner.

The three contested races in the annual election brought out 934 of the town’s 4,192 registered voters, a 22.3 percent turnout that town officials said is unusually high for Southampton. All other candidates ran unopposed and were elected.

Town officials discovered just before the polls opened Monday at noon that the warrant for the election had not been posted. But both outgoing Town Clerk Eileen Couture and Town Administrator Heather Budrewicz said that after they realized that oversight, they were advised by the state Elections Division that a legislator could file special legislation to certify the election results. Couture said state Rep. Peter V. Kocot, D-Northampton, started the process Monday, and she expects it will take months to be ratified by the legislature. Kocot, whose district includes Southampton, did not return a call to his home seeking comment.

The town has experience with this process. In 2007, the Select Board failed to sign and post the election warrant seven days before the polls opened. In that case, those elected were not able to take office until four months later, following an investigation by Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s office and legislative action to certify the results.

Couture said an Elections Division representative told her Monday that the newly elected candidates could be sworn in Tuesday. But Town Moderator Robert Floyd said he will not swear in Domina Tuesday “until I know it is right and legal.” Until the new town clerk is sworn in by the moderator, she cannot swear in any other elected officials, he said.

Officials said the warrant, a document that officially announces the election and is required to be posted publicly, was signed by the Select Board but then was never given to the elected constables, Police Chief David Silvernail and Police Lt. Michael Goyette, to sign and post. Couture said that it was the responsibility of Budrewicz to forward the warrant to the constables. However, Budrewicz, who started her job March 3, said in her experience elsewhere it was the responsibility of the town clerk.

Couture said she was concerned candidates might challenge the election results because of the issue, but those who came to hear the results at Town Hall Monday night did not seem concerned.

With 393 votes, Domina, who is an assistant assessor and clerk to the Zoning Board of Appeals, won the four-way race to replace Couture. Joseph Puc was runner-up with 194 votes, Robin Richard received 181 and Joanne Alderman got 150.

“It’s overwhelming. I’m so happy,” Domina said after hearing the results with her family at Town Hall. “It was a tough race.”

Domina said she is excited about moving to her new office down the hall from her current one. “I can’t wait to get started.”

She declined to comment about the failure to post the election warrant because she was not aware of it.

Whiteley, who defeated challenger Derek Geser with 572 votes to his 330, said she is thrilled with the support from voters. “I love my job. I love working for the town and I’m excited for three more years,” she said.

Geser, a former Finance Committee member who worked temporarily in the treasurer/collector’s office, said he would not challenge the election results despite the warrant not being posted. “This was the democratic process. The people have spoken. I wish Donna the best,” he said at Town Hall.

Walunas, a plumber, was elected to the Water Commission for the first time with 521 votes, defeating incumbent Edward Cauley, who recently retired as highway superintendent, and received 358 votes. Neither candidate was present at the Town Hall after the election.

The following candidates ran unopposed and were elected: incumbent Jacqueline Sears and newcomer John Martin, to two Select Board seats; incumbent Robert Floyd, town moderator; Shelley O’Connell, Board of Health; incumbents Virginia Ahart and Janet Brown, two seats on the Community Preservation Committee; Francine Tishman, Finance Committee; Paula Maak, park commissioner; incumbent Jenneke Reynolds, Housing Authority; Paul Diemand, Planning Board; incumbent David Garstka, tree warden; Judith Conlin, cemetery commissioner; incumbents John Fitzpatrick and Jill Phelan, two School Committee seats; incumbent Mary Ann Bischoff, almoner; James Palermo and Arthur Lawrence, two seats on the Personnel Policy and Procedures Board; and incumbents Candace McDougall, Linda Saltmarsh, Beth Russell-Smith and newcomer Donald Bernier, four library trustee positions.

Six vacant positions were filled by residents’ whose names were written in. They are Jon Moro and Corey Braastad, two seats on the Hampshire Regional School Committee; Janet King, one-year term on the Finance Committee; Linda Summers, three-year term on the Finance Committee; Roger Ball, park commissioner; and Gary Swanson, assessor. No one was elected to two vacancies on the Housing Authority.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.