Andover board unanimously reverses town meeting decision; two members resign

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Early in its Monday, Jan. 24 meeting, the Andover Select Board unanimously reversed its stance on how Town Meeting should be conducted, changing from all business being done by floor vote to a hybrid information meeting on one day, with voting by Australian ballot on Town Meeting day.

Scott Kendall, left, explains that he did not understand that the change was just for one year. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Considering the reaction to the board’s previous vote to have Town Meeting in person only, that would have been news enough, but before the meeting was over, two members – Chris Walker and Jed LaPrise – had resigned from the board.

The situation stems from the board’s meeting on Jan. 10, where it voted 3-2 to hold the annual town meeting in-person with voting from the floor only.  (See: Andover board opts for in-person Town Meeting) Later in that meeting, board member Maddy Bodin chided the other members saying she was “disgusted” by the way they took votes away from Andover residents. She also refused to again write the annual Select Board letter for the town report, saying that she refused “to cover” or “lie for” the board in characterizing their actions.

But the day after that meeting, Board member Scott Kendall, who had attended it via Zoom while traveling in his car, said he misunderstood what the vote was about and wanted to change his vote.

About 10 residents attended the Jan. 24 meeting – the largest crowd in some time according to board members – and those who spoke were in favor of the hybrid meeting even if they would prefer an in-person meeting. Andover resident Hank Mauti said he could understand why some would not want to come to a public meeting, calling it “voter suppression” to not have a way for them to vote.

Board member Jed LaPrise spoke against mail-in ballots, associating them with fraudulent votes, while Bodin defended the voting system and Town Clerk Jeanette Haight’s administration of it. Former select board member Jean Peters said Haight “respects the integrity of the ballot.”

Town Clerk Jeanette Haight explains how the recent election legislation works

Haight also made it clear that ballots will be sent to people who request them, not to every voter.

Board member Scott Kendall said he was going to change his vote because he did not understand that the change would only be for one year. Haight explained that was in the legislation and Bodin noted that the select board does not have the power to alter permanently how Town Meeting votes are held. That power — to change from in-person “from the floor” votes to Australian ballots can only be done by the voters.

Walker said he had heard from a number of constituents and he was voting as they wanted, not necessarily as he wanted. He said that he hated Zoom meetings but “overwhelmingly, the public has stated they don’t want to vote in public…it’s not what I want, but what they want.”

After a bit more discussion – including the effectiveness of mail-in ballots with the current staffing problems of the Chester Post Office – board chair Chris Plumb moved to have a hybrid (in-person and Zoom) meeting at 10 a.m. on Saturday Feb. 26 and vote all of the articles by Australian ballot on March 1. The motion was approved unanimously.

Also on the agenda was Walker’s “position” and, at that point, he announced that he had resigned from the Select Board effective Feb. 1. As reasons for leaving he referred to “sabotage” by Bodin, but also said the board has “acted poorly in some situations” because members “didn’t know what to do.” He pointed to the emergency services situation with Chester as an example, saying that the board could have managed it better. (See: Andover Board, residents complain)He encouraged whoever comes on to the board not to take what people say on Facebook as gospel and he encouraged people to come to the Select Board meetings rather than watching them on Zoom, which he said was terrible to understand.

Jed LaPrise and Maddy Bodin disagree on mail in ballots and other election procedures

At several times during the meeting LaPrise and Bodin argued. LaPrise said that Bodin’s accusations at the last meeting had affected his personal and work life and if he didn’t get an apology from Bodin, he would resign as of the end of the meeting. Bodin refused and LaPrise told Haight he was resigning.

At the beginning of the meeting, Kendall asked for an executive session to discuss the contract for emergency services drawn up by the Town of Chester. The board went into executive session at the end of the meeting and decided to send the contract along with some questions to Andover’s attorney for review. Chester continues to provide services during the period that the contract is being finalized.

There are four seats up for election on March 1. Chris Plumb is running for re-election to his 3-year seat and there is one year left of Chris Walker’s  unexpired 3-year term and two one-year terms — both Scott Kendall and Jed LaPrise. This year, again, candidates need not collect signatures on a petition, but must sign a consent form to be placed on the ballot. Consent forms can be signed at the Town Office, 953 Andover Road. That must be done by 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022.

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  1. Alyssa Bargfrede says:

    These meetings are disgusting, everyone’s actions are disgusting, it’s nothing but a shame. When I grew up in Andover, the select board had RESPECT for each other, even if their views were different. I’ve sat in on several meetings in the past, and there was never this amount of discord. You are all grown ass adults, and it’s time to start acting like it. Control your tempers, learn how to discuss issues correctly, and stop taking offense to every single thing. It’s not about one person, it’s about the entire community of Andover.
    The old community of Andover never lashed out like this, and it always felt like a growing, loving, caring community. Recently, it just seems to be toxic, volatile, and disappointing.

  2. Chris Walker says:

    I just wanted to say Thank you to the Telegraph and Andover residents for the support over the last couple years. I feel my resignation has been unfortunate but necessary for myself and my family. I hope our community can continue to prosper in the coming years with a more active involvement from my fellow citizens. Please stay informed and come out and vote.
    Thank you
    Chris Walker

  3. Jed LaPrise says:

    Mr. Wallace, unfortunately you are basing your comment on what was written in this article.
    Once again, the Chester telegraph has done a wonderful job of cutting and pasting to create their own narrative and have failed to quote what was said correctly.
    They have never once contacted me to get both sides to a story.

  4. Christopher Wallace says:

    The malicious ignorance of a sitting Select Board member to insinuate election fraud within their own municipality is astounding and an insult to the honest and hardworking Clerks, poll workers, and BCA members charged with maintaining election integrity; it certainly does not merit any apology from anyone, save the very SB member who made the baseless insinuation of election fraud.