Thursday, January 28, 2010

Curtis Beats Caldwell 99-99

Just as Harvard "beat" Yale in the famous 29-29 come-from-behind-with-only-42-seconds-remaining-on-the-clock accrual of 16 points to tie The Game, and thus the Ivy League championship, so underdog Paul Curtis "beat" odds-on favorite Joan Caldwell by accruing an amazing 99 votes in his quest to become Moderator Pro Tempore at the January 18th RTM meeting. Equally amazing, Joan herself pulled 99 votes as well.

At the time, this little bit of "Ripley's Believe It or Not" Greenwich history was known to only four people: the three officals from the Town Clerk's office who tallied the votes, and the Moderator of the RTM, Tom Byrne. Tom, himself a duly-elected RTM delegate, then did something he had done, by his own account, only three times before in his 14-year tenure as Moderator: he voted.

But--and it's a big but--he didn't tell this to the body. He merely announced the vote total as Paul Curtis 99, Joan Caldwell 100.

There was an audible reaction throughout the auditorium. No one, including Paul Curtis, had expected the vote to be so close. No doubt many members had second thoughts about the way they'd cast their ballots. But the vote was the vote, or so we all believed at the time.

When it later came out that the Moderator had intervened to break the tie, quite a furor began to erupt. Traditionally, Tom Byrne, like his predecessors, had merely voted "present" so as not to affect the outcome of the RTM's voting procedures. But now he had broken with tradition, in order to do exactly that.

Does Tom have the right to vote? Well, as an elected member of the RTM, he presumably does. Does he have the right to vote in a manner different from the rest of us, which is to say not with his district, like everyone else, but only after all the other votes have been cast, and the district cards have been signed and certified by the district chairmen? That, dear reader, is the question.

Tom himself now acknowledges that if he could do things over, he would have been more open with the RTM about what he had done. Presumably, he would have said something like, "We have a tie vote of 99 for Mr. Curtis and 99 for Ms. Caldwell. As an elected member of this body, I have the right to vote on this issue. I therefore cast my vote for my colleague of fourteen years' standing, Ms. Caldwell."

There would have probably been some catcalls and boos, and no doubt even some applause at this point. But at least the voting process would have been transparent and open. Which it was not.

One of our local rags, the Greenwich (Dumb as a) Post, has written an editorial today calling for a do-over. While it is not your scribe's favorite journalistic outlet, perhaps it has a point. Right now there is a bad taste in many people's mouths. Let's have a second vote, as perhaps we should have done on the 18th, to break the tie. The thirty members absent on the 18th would thus have a chance to have their say. And Tom Byrne should certainly be allowed to vote as well, perhaps asking Town Clerk Carmella Budkins to act as Moderator Pro Tem while he joins his district for the voting process.

This is, it would seem, the best and fairest way to clear the air. Even Popes and Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal Church are not usually elected on the first ballot. Surely we can manage to take a few minutes at the next RTM meeting to take a second vote that will lay to rest this controversy.

Unless, of course, the March vote turns out to be 115-115. Well, if it does, your scribe will offer a motion on the floor that the two candidates share the office, perhaps alternating on a month-by-month basis. This would allow Mr. Curtis to gain some familiarity with the job, while allowing Ms. Caldwell a chance to share her fourteen years of experience with him. Everyone would be a winner, not least the Town of Greenwich.

UPDATE 1/30/10:

Check out the "comments" section for more on the above post.

9 Comments:

Blogger Russell said...

This was an interesting post but I noticed you didn't actually mention that both elections did not seem to follow the procedure set out in the RTM's own rule book.
RULES OF
THE REPRESENTATIVE TOWN MEETING
OF THE TOWN OF GREENWICH
Effective 8/1/2007

Section III, SubSection A, Paragraph 3

3. Voting procedure. The Town Clerk or Assistant Town Clerk shall act as
temporary chairman of the RTM until a Moderator is elected. Nominations for the office of
moderator shall be made from the floor and seconded. Voting shall be by written ballot.
The Moderator shall be elected by a majority of members present and voting. In the event
that no candidate receives a majority of votes, the candidate with the least votes shall be
eliminated and additional ballots taken as a run-off among the remaining candidates until
one candidate receives a majority of votes. After a Moderator has been elected, a
Moderator Pro Tempore shall be elected under the same procedure.

The important word here is the word "After" in the last sentence of the paragraph. It seemed to me that the voting took place concurrently rather than consecutivly thus the vote was null and void anyway.

There are also many other faults with the execution of the election in particular with Mr Byrne's actions and their legality under the Rules of the RTM but as they all stem from from the same improper voting procedure that is already tainted they are moot unless Mr Byrne wishes to continue with his pretense that what he did was right and proper.

January 29, 2010 10:45 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Thanks for your comment, Russell. I'm not sure what you mean by "concurrently", as I thought we did two distinct record votes, first one for Moderator and then one for Moderator Pro Tem.

In any case, I tend to agree that the Moderator Pro Tem vote was tainted by Tom's belated and not strictly kosher vote, i.e., not cast with his district and certified by the district chairman. In fact, one wonders if the chairman marked Tom as "present", and Tom later changed the voting card to reflect his support of Joan Caldwell. That would make for an interesting scenario....

January 30, 2010 9:58 AM  
Blogger Russell said...

Bill,

what I mean by concurrently is that your own RTM rules state that the order is first moderator and ONLY after that has been voted on and announced and the moderated seated and has called to order (the seated part is my interpretation and how all groups i have been involved in do it)do you then cast votes for the moderator pro temp. Anything else is an abuse of the system and it would still have then allowed Mr Byrne to cast a tie breaking vote if he so wished although I personally think that is disallowed by the RTM rules as currently written.
I am pointing out one major flaw in the procedure but at last count after reading the RTM rules and from my over 25 years of being involved with groups that utilise Robert's I have found over 10 and each of which nullifies the result of the elections.

January 30, 2010 6:06 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

I'm still slightly confused, Russell. Here's what I recall happening, as it has every other year from time immemorial to which the memory of man runneth not to the contrary:

Tom Byrne called the meeting to order, and announced that item one, the election of a moderator, was before the body. He then stepped aside as the Town Clerk became the temporary chair of the meeting. Tom was the only candidate nominated. We took a record vote, and he won (though I think there may have been a sprinkling of negative votes and/or abstentions).

Tom then formally took over as moderator. He announced item two: the election of a moderator pro tem. There were two candidates, and, well, you know the rest.

So I think we did things in proper order. The only real problem, as I see it, was Tom's not being forthright about the tie vote and his role in breaking the tie by not voting with his district, the way the of us do.

And I still wonder what the district card looked like. Was Tom marked "present" by the district chair, and was that then later changed? If so, we have another issue to address....

January 31, 2010 1:28 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

Bill,

I of course only know what I saw on the video but from my viewing but it looked to me as if the voting for both posts was actually occuring simultainiously via the district cards but i may well be wrong there. However that doesn't nullify the other inconsistencies that seemed to occur.

My biggest gripe actually is not even the vote tally or even the voting procedure but rather Mr Byrne's flippant attitude about the whole thing especially he comments about tradition, just because it's the way it's always been done doesn't actually make it correct especially if the RTM's own rules say it's not no matter what convoluted logic is applied.

Now I really don't know how you do things in the colonies but in the mother country, (and i have witnessed it many times) in organisations following RNOR and other Parlimentary procedures Mr Byrne's flippant attitude would have led to his censure at the very least for ungentlemanly conduct and probably led to being sent to coventry (shunned) for a period.

All in all though it has led to some very entertaining "tv" much better than American Idol.

February 02, 2010 6:59 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Wow, Russell, what a gold mine of information in your latest! So you're from Blighty, are you? And whereabouts in the Mother Country do you hail from?

Tom's attitude might be characterized by some as that of "the imperial moderator". Paul Curtis, who does the TV feed for our own little Greenwich reality show, would be thrilled at your comparing his work so favorably to "American Idol".

Say more!

February 03, 2010 1:24 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

I lived most of my youth in the midlands, but a come from "southend wiv free eff's like" although in another 3 years I will have spent exactly half my life in the colonies and half in blighty.

Before I moved here though I was heavily involved with politics at a local and national level, was at various times the SU tresurerer, president and secretary for my college and wrote election software that utilized the election rolls for the uniquely english practice (and term) known as "knocking up". I also come from a very active political and community activist family, my mother was on numerous national committees and groups ranging from cancer research through the cat protection league to youth work and my father for many years was "father of the chapel" for his branch of the NUJ plus involved with local politics.

So I was pretty much given a copy of Robert's (and other parlimentary preocedures tomes) in the crib. I've been a bit lax since i've been in the states but I am still involved with various freecycle and other "free/swap" groups, the local library and a few other odds and sods.

Anyway I hope that this story continues to be interesting as I haven't planned my "tv" for March yet :)

February 05, 2010 8:33 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Fascinating! One of the characters in my Anglo-American novel series comes from the Midlands, where she decides at the age of eight that she wants to become Prime Minister. And eventually does.

Equally fascinating is your interest in watching the Greenwich RTM on Paul Curtis's TV feed via Channel 79. It this not like watching grass grow? I'd far rather watch Bootsie and Sundge reruns, asssuming anyone remembers who they are.

So may I ask the question, where in the colonies do you live? Are you anywhere near Greenwich, CT? And if so, can I interest you in running for the RTM...? :)

February 05, 2010 11:37 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Damn! I hate typos! Make that "Bootsie and Snudge".

February 05, 2010 11:39 AM  

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