Challenge To Gym Vote Thrown Out Of Court

Front Page / May. 15, 2008 12:00am EDT

By M. D. Drysdale

Challenge To Gym Vote Thrown Out Of Court By M. D. Drysdale

A Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Royalton School District, leaving intact the vote last Sept. 11 that authorized bonding for $3.9 million to build a new gymnasium at the school.

Plaintiffs Bill Benoit and David McCullough had claimed the board acted improperly when it refused to schedule a revote on the bond issue. The two men had helped circulate a petition requesting the revote, and the petition was delivered to the town clerk on Oct. 2.

The school board, however, rejected the petition on the advice of an attorney, who said it was unclear and the board shouldn’t try to figure it out.

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 19 in Windsor County Superior Court.

This month, Judge Walter M. Morris Jr. dismissed the case, after the school district had requested "summary judgment."

Summary judgment is used when there is no serious disagreement on the facts of the matter, so that the case can be decided strictly as a matter of law.

Judge Morris agreed with the school district lawyers on both their main claims.

First, the lawsuit was filed after the 30-day limit for filing such appeals, and the plaintiffs did not provide any grounds for ignoring that limit.

In fact, the judge said, the South Royalton case illustrates why the 30-day rule is important.

"The voters have approved funding for a project, and the school district needs a final decision," he said.

Secondly, Judge Morris agreed with the school board’s original reason for not scheduling a re-vote.

"The petition itself includes language that is far from clear," he said. "The lack of clarity in the petition provides a second ground for summary judgment in favor of the school district."

The bond issue was passed by a vote of 342-293. Two more expensive gymnasium proposals had been defeated over the last five years.

The school board has been continuing with building plans since the Sept. 11 bond approval.

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