Tabulation Error Acknowledged in RTM Item 8 Appeal of Town Attorney Opinion on “Unmasking Our Children” Ordinance

On Thursday, RTM members responded to Greenwich Free Press having published member votes on Monday night’s Item 8, which concerned whether to refer the legality of a proposed ordinance to the Legislative & Rules committee.

The ordinance originated from Carl Higie’s petition with 20+ signatures proposing to override state regulations requiring masking of public and private school students.

GFP accurately reported the results shared from the town clerk’s office:

But it seems that in the process of tabulation, some votes in district 9 were not reported to the town clerk accurately.

The corrected vote for District 9 on Item 8 should have been 1 Yes, 18 No, and 1 Abstain – Not the reported 4 Yes, 13 No, and 1 Abstain.

According to RTM moderator Tom Byrne, “Each district is responsible for presenting an accurate voting card recording the votes of the district members to the Town Clerk.  In the case of the vote on item 8, the Clerk’s Office accurately totaled the votes presented to it.”

Fortunately, the vote was not close because Mr. Byrne went on to explain that once a vote is announced, it is recorded and cannot be changed.

“Any rule to the contrary would lead to chaos, with no vote total being reliable,” he said. “When members are not at the location where voting cards are marked, there must necessarily be a reliance on someone else to mark the card for them.  Each district needs to select individuals who can accurately prepare a voting card for the district.”

Specifically, district 9’s Seth Bacon, who spoke out against referring the legality of the ordinance to RTM Legislative & Rules had voted No, but his vote was recorded as a Yes.

In an email thread shared by Mr. Byrne, Jonathan Shankman apologized for the errors, saying, “This is clearly my error, and I apologize.”

In that thread, Mr. Bacon wrote, “I was one of only a handful of people to speak against this item as I feel strongly about it.”

Mr. Shankman misrecorded the votes of Mr. Bacon, Brian Raney, and Lauren O’Keefe’s as Yes votes when they were No votes. He was never given Joanne Steinhart’s vote, though she voted No via text to Mr. Raney.

Michael Brescia was the lone Yes vote in district 9.

On Thursday morning, assistant town clerk Kim Spezzano gave a bit of the back story, saying there shouldn’t have been a “middle man” in the tabulation process.

She said Mr. Shankman was a tabulator in the CMS auditorium Monday Night and Mr. Raney was remote.

She said that typically, during Covid, one person tabulates remotely from home via text or email, then takes a photo of the card and submits the results to the town clerk.

But in the case of district 9, with two people involved things went awry.

Spezzano said that ideally, given Covid, one person from each of the 12 districts comes in person to the meeting at Central Middle School, where it is possible to social distance, to tabulate votes.

She said having two members of district 9 tabulating votes resulted in errors.

Spezzano said that while the 8-member P&Z commission has had success with holding public meetings on Zoom, the RTM has 230 members.

Zoom allows a maximum of 100 participants to appear on a panel and mute/unmute their video.

Spezzano said it might be wise for the town to develop a proprietary system that would accommodate more than 100 attendees.

Newly elected RTM member in district 12 James Waters said in an email, “While I’m disappointed that there was a clear tabulation error in District 9, I’m heartened that more than 75% of the RTM voted to dismiss this charade promoted by a fringe minority. In the coming term I will support modernization of the RTM’s voting mechanisms so we can improve confidence in our system, especially when there are closer votes.”

Thursday afternoon Mr. Bacon emailed to say he was grateful for the incredible amount of work that has gone into operating RTM meetings over the past 18 months of the pandemic.

“That said, apparently there was a discrepancy with the vote I cast and the vote that was submitted to the town clerk’s office on Monday. This discrepancy was driven by a breakdown in process,” he said. “I have raised these concerns with RTM leadership and the town clerk’s office.”

“As I said when I spoke during the meeting, I fundamentally disagreed with this proposed ordinance – in the way it was worded from a legal order standpoint, in the misrepresentation of facts and science presented by the proponents of the item, and in the impact it could have on our children and the broader community,” he continued. “While the vote overwhelmingly showed a lack of support for this ordinance and my vote was not a ‘deciding vote,’ I believe it is important that residents have a clear, accurate picture of how their RTM representatives are voting on important issues.’

While the vote will not be changed, the accurate totals for Item 8 were: 40 Yes (not 43), 146 No (not 141) and 7 Abstentions.

See also:

Wondering How RTM Item #8, “Unmask Our Children” Vote Broke Down?

197 Viewers Zoom in for RTM Vote on Legality of ‘Unmask Our Kids’ Ordinance