A civil court judge said Wednesday he won’t send city voters back to the polls.
Judge Samuel Hoar issued a four-page decision throwing out the lawsuit that sought to invalidate the March election because the city charter wasn’t published on time. Hoar granted a motion to dismiss filed by City Attorney Matthew Bloomer, ruling that plaintiff Mark Nowakowski had failed to state a legal claim.
“Although the Defendants may have erred in releasing the city report late, the only remedy Mr. Nowakowski has sought does not fit the wrongs he alleges,” Hoar wrote.
Nowakowski, who represented himself, argued that the city report’s tardiness violated the city charter and prevented voters from being fully informed when they went to the polls on Town Meeting Day. He asked the court to throw out the votes on the budget, two bond items and the mayoral race. He did not ask for the aldermanic race to be similarly invalidated.
City School Board member Kam Johnston attempted to intervene in the case with a filing that made arguments about a general transparency problem with the city, referring to his disputes with the city assessor’s office. Hoar denied Johnston’s motion, writing that Johnston had not demonstrated himself to be an interested party.
The city did not dispute the underlying claim. The charter requires the city report to be published by Nov. 15, and it hasn’t been out by that date in roughly a decade. This year, it wasn’t available until the week before the election. However, Bloomer argued that from how the charter was worded, publication of the city report was not a requirement for the election, and that the charter listed no consequence for the city when it fails to publish the report.
Hoar wrote in his decision that the standards for invalidating elections were established in a 1997 case involving the Montpelier public school system, and that it set a high bar requiring severe misconduct and harm.
“Mr. Nowakowski broadly asserts the alleged harms,” Hoar wrote. “Nowhere, however, does Mr. Nowakowski allege that a more timely release would have changed the outcome ... he does not allege that Defendants acted deliberately or with the intent to improperly influence the outcome of the election.”
Neither Nowakowski nor Bloomer could be immediately reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.