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Judge denies Linda Dowling's petition to be appointed selectman

November 03, 2010
LANCASTER — Judge Timothy Vaughn denied the petition filed by Linda Dowling in Superior Court on Tuesday, Oct. 26. Her petition asked him to immediately appoint her to fill the vacancy on the Carroll board of selectmen or, in the alternative, to immediately schedule a hearing.

Judge Vaughn denied Ms. Dowling's petition the day it was filed, however.

Instead he set Nov. 26 as the day the select board must make a written appearance; set Dec. 26 as the day they must file an answer or another response; and set 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 5 as the final hearing date, estimated to take 30 minutes.

No mention, however, was made of Ms. Dowling's petition at Monday night's selectmen's meeting, even though she was present. The two selectmen at the hour-plus-long meeting did not have disagreements.

The board vacancy was created a month earlier on Sept. 27 when then-chairman Chris Hancock stepped down.

Ms. Dowling filed her petition the day after the two remaining selectmen — acting chairman Bonnie Moroney and Mark Catalano — were unable to agree on her appointment at their Oct. 25 meeting.

The 63-year-old retiree noted in her petition that she had filed a letter on Sept. 28 in which she offered to fill the vacancy and submitted her resume.

Ms. Dowling worked from 1998 to 2004 as a secretary and administrative assistant to the Littleton board of selectmen and town manager. Prior to that she held similar positions in Pelham, this after a nursing career in Bay State convalescent homes.

No other Carroll resident volunteered to fill the vacant post.

Ms. Dowling stated in her petition that the "two selectmen hold completely opposite philosophies on essentially every issue." A pending court case will require that one selectman recuse himself, and this also makes filling the third seat an "urgent" matter, she said.

"The expedient appointment to fill the third seat is prudent and necessary given the current situation," she argued

According to the minutes of the Oct. 25 meeting, selectman Catalano, who was elected in March by defeating then-incumbent Ken Mills, said he thought that Ms. Dowling well qualified for the post.

Acting chairman Moroney said, however, that she would have "a real problem" with appointing Ms. Dowling because she did not get sworn in after the March 2009 election when she was elected to a one-year term as a selectman. This was what created the vacancy to which her opponent, Mr. Mills, was appointed.

It would be "a slap in the face" to townspeople for the board to appoint her the position when she did not accept it when elected, Ms. Moroney said.

Ms. Dowling ran that year as one of a pair of linked candidates, but she was the only one who won.

David "Ike" Ikasalo lost his bid to unseat then-incumbent Ms. Moroney, who won the three-year term.

Mr. Catalano said he'd heard mixed reaction from voters.

There is no requirement that the position must be filled.

Dr. Evan Karpf, a large landowner who co-owns the Twin Mountain Airport and other commercial properties with his wife and serves on the Planning Board, said that having only two selectmen representing the town would be difficult when disagreements arise.

Former selectman Rena Vecchio, who resigned her elected position in April 2008 to take a paid position in the town office, said that in the past, the board had gone many months with only two selectmen.

Ms. Vecchio said that Ms. Dowling should not be appointed because after winning her race for selectman, she did not inform anyone that she was not going to take it.

Ms. Dowling's husband, Bill Dowling, also is a town employee, said that his wife is more qualified to fill the position than anyone else in the meeting room.

Mr. Catalano reported that the board had been told by Town Counsel, the Mitchell Municipal Group in Laconia, that it believes that it is in the town's best interest to fill the position as soon as possible.

There is a tax abatement case with which the board will have to be involved in order to reach a settlement, he explained. Since his father who brought the case forward, selectman Catalano stated that he would have to step down from participating in any way. But, he said, he certainly does not want it to look as though he is intentionally trying to slow down a court case in which his father is involved, he said.

When Mr. Catalano moved to appoint Ms. Dowling to fill the select board vacancy that evening (Oct. 25), Ms. Moroney declined to second his motion.

Selectman Catalano pointed out that that difference of opinion was the board's first stalemate.

It was a stalemate that Ms. Dowling decided to try to break by going to court.

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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