This article has been updated to include an email Friday night to the RTM from Glen Canner, Esq (District 12 RTM) quoting RTM rules arguing that Tuesday night’s vote on item 10 was final.
Original Article: This past week the RTM took up a vote on a controversial grant for $500,000 from the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL).
The vote was in favor of accepting the grant, 104-101 with 5 abstentions, but after the vote was announced some members complained their votes were incorrect.
The RTM recently instituted a digital voting system from Meridia. A previous system involved members writing their votes on paper or texting them or calling them in from home if attending remotely. The process was time consuming and remote attendees listened to music during five minutes of voting. And since tallying was done by hand, the vote results would typically be announced during a subsequent agenda item.
Using the electronic voting system on Tuesday, members were given one minute to vote. They each used a clicker in person at Central Middle School or submitted their vote remotely.
After the disputed vote was investigated, Moderator Alexis Voulgaris announced Thursday that there had been no errors.
Town Clerk Jackie Budkins shared a report from Meridia that said 7 representatives had reported that their vote was not received for Item 10, but that after analysis they concluded the data was sound and accurate.
Meridia explained that they do not keep a record of votes submitted before or after the voting window is open, therefore they couldn’t say whether the 7 members attempted to vote outside of the voting window.
They noted that J O’Brien had two boxes on the grid because he attended remotely and at one point logged out and then logged back in on another device.
The wireless clickers used for the RTM have three activated buttons: 1 for Yes, 2 for No and 3 for Abstain.
According to the report from Meridia, when an RTM member clicks a selection, the vote is submitted for transmission and the clicker screen will first display the number of the vote (1, 2, or 3) at the moment of submission, confirming what has been sent. But if the submission is incorrect, the representative has a chance to change their mind while the voting window is open. Only the last response will be counted. The receiver transmits a confirmation to the clicker in a form of “OK” shown on the clicker display.
While the voting window is open, data from the keypad is read and recorded by the TownVOTE software and displayed in the Voting Grid and displayed on the screen in red green or yellow to reflect the vote is received.
After submitting their votes, representatives are supposed to look at the central visual display to confirm their vote.
The moderator has the sole discretion of when to open and close the voting period and votes submitted prior to the beginning of the voting window, or after the vote is closed are discarded.
After the vote is declared closed, the votes are ‘locked’ and cannot be changed.
In their report Meridia recommended the RTM switch to a “Required” method of voting, instead of an “Invitational” method where a member is invited to vote, not required.
When voting is required, the vote is kept open until all participants have voted, or a particular set threshold is reached.
The Moderator may choose to call on specific voters by name to prompt them to vote. If all voters in attendance haven’t voted, the vote is kept open until they do.
Meridia also recommended that the countdown clock be removed because the vote count should determine when a vote is complete, not a certain duration of time.
Using the Required vote model would have ensured that each RTM member successfully submitted their vote prior to closing the voting window as the Moderator would only close the vote if 100% participation was achieved.
On Thursday evening, Ms Voulgaris issued a statement saying she had determined that the vote tally announced on Tuesday was the final vote, subject only to a proper parliamentary device seeking to reopen that vote.
Shortly after, RTM member Michael Spilo used the alll-230 member RTM email to make a motion to overrule the decision of the Chair, Ms Voulgaris.
Of note, the resolution for item 10 said the First Selectman was authorized to execute the grant agreement.
On Friday afternoon, First Selectman Camillo issued a statement saying, for now, he did not plan to sign the grant agreement.
“I am fully aware of the issues surrounding the vote on Item 10 during the RTM’s meeting this past Tuesday and it is my understanding that there is a procedural mechanism by which the vote can be challenged by RTM membership. Therefore, I will not sign the grant agreement until the this has been fully dealt with by the members of the RTM.”
Camillo said he had full confidence in the Registrars of Voters, the Registrar of Voters’ office, Town Clerk, the Town Clerk’s office, the moderator of the RTM and the full membership of the body.
“I also have full confidence in the voting system, which I feel is new and exciting and presents the Town with a more efficient way for the RTM to vote,” he continued, adding, “But like all new systems, there are going to be ways to improve it and things have to be worked out with it. This is something I believe will be a real asset to the Town and I believe the RTM will be able to work this matter out no matter which way any upcoming votes on this issue will go.”
After Camillo’s statement went to the media and to RTM members Friday afternoon, Glen Canner of District 12 emailed the entire body quoting RTM Rules saying that once the voting period expires as announced by the Moderator, all final votes cast will be tallied and recorded, and cannot be changed:
“Greenwich RTM Rule Section III Subsection K ABSENCE OF SPECIFIC RULES states that “In all cases not covered by the Rules of the Representative Town Meeting, the current edition of ‘Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised’ shall govern”. (emphasis added) This situation is covered by the RTM Rules. RTM Rule Section III Subsection I PROCEDURE AT MEETINGS subpart 4 Voting Procedure subpart b 4 states that “once the voting period expires as announced by the Moderator, all final votes cast will be tallied and recorded and cannot be changed”. (emphasis added) RTM Rule Section III Subsection 3 Point of Information subpart b (1) provides an appeal procedure specifically that “If the Town Attorney is not present or shall decline to give an immediate opinion, or if, after an opinion is given, any member shall appeal therefrom, the question may, by majority vote of those present, be referred to the Legislative and Rules Committee for further study and conference with the Town Attorney and a report at the next regular meeting”. The Town Attorney declined to give an immediate opinion on the matter at Tuesday’s meeting. Thereafter appeal rights were not preserved pursuant to the aforementioned section. With no appeal having been filed it would appear that the vote on Item #10 is final.”– Glen A. Canner Esq.
Stamford / Greenwich