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Putney Town Clerk resigns

Germon, absent from work since May, to step down effective March 5

PUTNEY—Denise Germon, absentee town clerk and treasurer, has resigned.

At the Jan. 31 regular Selectboard meeting, Germon’s attorney, Fletcher Proctor, submitted her letter of resignation to Interim Town Manager Chip Stearns, Administrative Assistant Karen Astley, and the three Selectboard members, Steve Hed, Scott Henry, and Josh Laughlin.

The Selectboard unanimously voted to accept her resignation. Laughlin thanked Germon for “her service to the town of many years,” and added, “we wish her all the best.”

Laughlin read Germon’s letter into the record.

“Gentlemen, please be advised that I hereby tender my resignation from my elected positions as town clerk and treasurer, to be effective as of midnight on March 5, 2018,” she wrote.

March 6 is Town Meeting Day.

Her announcement ends a months-long stalemate in the town offices.

Germon, who was elected to a three-year term as town clerk and treasurer at the 2017 Town Meeting, stopped showing up for work at the end of May.

Until Jan. 31, Germon didn’t communicate directly with the Selectboard — all interactions came through Proctor. She did not resign or notify Selectboard members of her intentions, and according to town officials, she wasn’t away on medical leave. Germon didn’t respond to The Commons’ attempts to contact her.

According to state statute, there is no recall mechanism for elected officials. A vacancy in an elected position only can be created by that person’s resigning, moving, dying, or being declared mentally unfit for office.

Since none of those applied, Putney was left with an absentee town clerk and treasurer. Assistant Town Clerk Barbara Taylor and former Town Clerk and Treasurer Anita Coomes have filled in since Germon’s departure.

Had this taken place a few years ago, Putney would have been stuck with no way out until Germon’s three-year term ended. However, about two weeks before Germon left her post, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 27.

Now, under Title 17 of the Vermont statutes, townspeople may vote at Town Meeting to authorize the legislative body — in this case, the Selectboard — to appoint a town clerk and treasurer. The same legislative body can also remove those same public officials “for just cause after notice and hearing.”

At the Dec. 6 regular Selectboard meeting, Stearns notified the Board that a resident delivered the petition, with an adequate number of signatures, to Assistant Town Clerk Barbara Taylor.

In late-January, Proctor contacted The Commons and asked the editors to print a letter Germon wrote explaining why she abandoned her posts. But Proctor told editors he would send Germon’s letter only if they agreed to print it as submitted, with no edits.

The Commons declined, and offered to collaborate on editing. Proctor rejected the offer.

On Feb. 1, the Brattleboro Reformer printed Germon’s 1,116-word letter in its entirety.

Whether voters decide to change the terms of the town clerk’s and treasurer’s offices on March 6, the town now has the opportunity to fill those positions.

Selectboard Chair Scott Henry said, upon receiving Germon’s resignation, “I’m glad to be able to move on.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #445 (Wednesday, February 7, 2018). This story appeared on page A1.

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