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Derry

March 6, 2014

Attorney rules Town Council contract vote invalid

DERRY — After being challenged by two town councilors, a recent union contract vote was deemed invalid by town attorneys.

Attorneys ruled that a Town Council vote Feb. 18 to approve a collective bargaining agreement between the town and its 29 Professional Administration and Technical Employees Union was not done with the proper majority of votes.

The ruling comes after two councilors, Mark Osborne and Al Dimmock, challenged the 3-2 vote, saying the procedure did not follow the official rules defined by Derry’s town charter for voting procedures.

Osborne, an attorney, threatened legal action if the contract was enforced and raised a charter objection following the vote.

Osborne’s challenge to the vote was due to language in the town charter that says the union contract could only be passed if a “majority vote” of those present was given.

He said there was no majority that night with only six councilors in attendance and one, Phyllis Katsakiores, voting to abstain.

In an email to both Town Council Chairman Michael Fairbanks and Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau, Osborne said, “With only three councilors voting in favor of the contract, that is not a majority of those present, hence the measure fails.”

Attorney Brenda Keith of the firm Boutin & Altieri wrote a memo to both Budreau and Fairbanks, stating that under the town’s charter a majority vote is “a majority of those present and voting with a quorum of the body present.”

She went on to say a labor contract vote was considered an “appropriation” that would require a two-thirds majority of all Council members to approve.

The contract vote did not pass according to town charter rules.

Osborne said he stands by his decision to challenge the vote.

What comes next is uncertain.

“I am very doubtful that the rules permit for a re-vote, the result of which would likely lead to the same result,” Osborne said. “Therefore, the Council will hopefully now have sufficient tenure and confidence to set contract goals more in line with economic realities and the voters’ wishes.”

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