A member of the Rutland City Public Schools Board of School Commissioners is trying to intervene in a lawsuit over the city report in filings a civil court judge termed “spurious and vexatious.”
Kam Johnston, representing himself, has appealed the denial of his motions to the Vermont Supreme Court. Meanwhile, a hearing scheduled for this week in the underlying case, in which a city resident argues that the March election should be invalidated because the city report was not published on time, was delayed until next week.
Mark Nowakowski, also representing himself, brought the lawsuit in Rutland County civil court, noting that the city report was not published until the week before Town Meeting Day and arguing that it rendered voters unable to make informed decisions on the budget, the two bond issues and the mayor’s race. The charter requires the city report to be published on Nov. 15, but it has not been out by that deadline in several years.
The city has sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that the charter does not list the publication of the city report as one of the reporting requirements prior to the March election, that the charter lists no penalty for failing to publish the report on time and that even if the report had come out on Nov. 15, it would have lacked information on this year’s budget proposal and the bond articles.
Johnston, meanwhile, filed a motion to intervene this week that was largely concerned with his ongoing feud with city assessor Barry Keefe over the valuation of Johnston’s mother’s properties. The motion claims the city has a broad “history of disregarding reporting requirements,” and particularly takes issue with how tax grievance hearings are warned. Johnston’s filings did suggest “other remedies” for the late publication of the report, including fining the city for each day the report was late or appointing a “master” to assure the city meets reporting deadlines.
Judge Samuel Hoar denied the motion, saying Johnston’s concerns were not the ones the court was reviewing.
“This is an action seeking to invalidate an election, based on an alleged failure to publish the City’s Annual Report in a timely fashion,” he wrote. “The motion fails to demonstrate that the putative intervenor has an interest related to that election. ... This vague allegation does not confer standing to intervene in this far more discrete action.”
Johnston followed up with a motion for injunctive relief, which Hoar ruled was “COMPLETELY out of order.”
“The court has previously rejected any notion that Mr. Johnston has any standing to participate in this case,” Hoar wrote. “There is no provision in rule, statute, or caselaw for filing such a motion ex parte. In short, the motion is entirely spurious and vexatious.”
Johnston filed his appeal before receiving the second ruling, but wrote in the appeal that he anticipated the motion’s denial. He also seemed to anticipate rejection in the motion itself, writing in one of his filings that “claiming the filing is frivolous, makes no sense, contains irrelevant information, is repetitive, and/or places an undue burden on the court or the parties will be taken as a pro-lawyer bias.”