News, Woodbury

Woodbury Select Board Meeting Ends Almost Before It Began

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photo courtesy HCTV
Eric Johnson

WOODBURY – The select board meeting on Monday, April 22, began and ended in just under eight minutes.

It was called to order in the usual way by Chris Casey. The usual business of making adjustments to the agenda included a request by Diane Peduzzi who said, “We have a guest here who has a request and it’s somewhat timely because our next meeting isn’t for three weeks.” She asked that Sophie Ehrhardt of Northeast Wilderness Trust be added to the agenda to make that request.

Casey suggested Ehrhardt be heard immediately following public comments and that approval of bills and payroll orders be moved to the end of the meeting, presumably not to delay hearing from their guest.

Minutes from the April 9 meeting were approved and Koteas explained that the next agenda item; public comment for items not on the agenda, is intended to be a chance for the public to be heard, but not for the board to respond.

A gentleman introducing himself as Eric Johnson, obviously well-known to Casey and sometimes known as Eric Johnson Wallace-Senft, took issue with being called a resident, saying that he calls himself an inhabitant, indicating that he has been so for nearly 30 years in Woodbury. He told the board that his attempts to speak with the town clerk and other elected officials about a tax bill dating back to August have gone unanswered.

He took issue with the inconvenience and his emotional state.

He followed by adding, “Corporations are not government, corporations are doing the work of government.”

When asked by Casey what he wants. . . Johnson again asked to speak in person with town Treasurer and Delinquent Tax Collector, Brandy Smith about the tax bill.

Casey then told Johnson that his chance to make his public comment was over, Johnson responded by saying, “This is more important than anything on that agenda” and the interaction began to get heated.

Jonathan did not accept the board’s acknowledgment that they had heard him, saying, “This is not a public comment, this is a claim.”

Jonathan insisted he was the authority, then said, “You can’t play the role of an official and be a human being at the same time. That’s a human problem.”

Casey then said, “I’m going to ask you . . . We’re going to move on. You need to sit down.”

Johnson then insisted, “I am the authority because you work for me,” again indicating that his right to make a claim superseded other work of the select board.

Casey implored Johnson, saying, “You need to sit down . . . This is done. You cannot take over meetings like this, you do this over and over again, you are obstructing. . .”

When it seemed to become clear to Casey that there was no resolution possible, he called for the meeting to be adjourned and both other members immediately voted in favor of doing so.

Peduzzi reports that there was discussion with Johnson both before and after the official meeting that involved a tax sale of property he owns. “His point seemed to be that he wasn’t given an audience with the Delinquent Tax Collector and he wanted the select board to make that happen. He didn’t give us much chance to respond,” she said, adding that The DTC is an independently elected official and the SB can’t tell her what to do or not to do.

Casey did tell Johnson that they would relay his message. Peduzzi remarked, “He couldn’t believe that.”

Their guest, nor the rest of the agenda received attention that evening. Despite Peduzzi’s earlier having made note of the next meeting being in three weeks, another select board meeting was scheduled for Monday, April 29, with roughly the same agenda.

Johnson did not attend that meeting.

An earlier version of this article and the May 1 PDF edition of the Gazette incorrectly referred to the presiding officer of this meeting as former Select Board Chair Chris Koteas.

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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