By MARK SARDELLA
LYNNFIELD — Cathleen “Katy” Shea picked up three votes as a result of last Saturday’s recount but it wasn’t enough to win her a seat on the Board of Selectmen, as Christopher Barrett still beat her by 36 votes.
Barrett’s recount total matched his election night vote count of 1,354. The additional three votes that Shea gained from the recount moved her total from 1,315 to 1,318.
The recount of the April 13 election results for selectman was requested by Shea. The process moved faster than expected, taking about three hours once the hand-counting of ballots got underway Saturday morning at the Al Merritt Media Center at MarketStreet.
After the recount workers were sworn in by Town Clerk Trudy Reid, Town Counsel Thomas Mullen reviewed the rules and procedures for the recount. The Board of Registrars oversaw the recount and sat together at one table in a corner of the recount area, which was roped off from the public area.
Keene reiterates objections
If fireworks were expected to carry over from the contentious campaign, they failed to materialize Saturday morning, although Shea’s attorney, Bradford Keene, did reiterate some of the same objections that he had voiced previously. He requested that the board disqualify Reid from participating in the recount on a number of grounds.
Keene objected to Reid participating in the recount based on alleged conflict of interest by virtue of the fact that the race being contested was for the Board of Selectmen, which appoints the Town Clerk. Reid is up for reappointment later this year.
He further maintained that as overseer of the original election, Reid would be “reviewing her own work,” by also supervising the recount. That, he claimed, represented at a minimum the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Keene also objected to Reid’s involvement on the basis of his contention that the Town Clerk is not a lawfully appointed member of the Board of Registrars and that the office of Town Clerk was not lawfully established in Lynnfield.
Mullen: Statutes define Town Clerk’s role
Mullen urged the Board of Registrars to deny Keene’s request to disqualify the Town Clerk.
He said that there was “no basis in law” for Keene’s suggestion that the Town Clerk would be doing something improper in a recount by reviewing the work she supervised in the election. Town clerks, he said, have clear statutory responsibilities with respect to both elections and recounts.
Mullen also said that the State Ethics Commission has crafted a specific exemption for appointed town clerks for circumstances when a member of the appointing body is on the ballot.
He also pointed out that the Town Clerk is by state statute a member of the Board of Registrars. In this case, Mullen noted, the Town Clerk was needed to achieve a quorum as the board is currently short one member pending the appointment of a third member by the selectmen.
The Board of Registrars voted 2-1 to deny Keene’s request to disqualify Reid, with Chairman Kendall Inglese and Reid voting to deny and Robert Casoli voting in support of Keene’s request.
The actual recounting of ballots began just before 9 a.m.
Five ballot-counting tables were set up within the roped off area. Seated opposite one another at each table were a “teller” and a “recorder.”
All five recorders were town clerks from other communities in the area: Barbara Stats (North Reading), Leslie Haley (Newbury), Pam Carakatsane (Ipswich), Bonnijo Kitchin (Amesbury) and Catherine Harder-Bernier (Hanover).
Election officers serving as tellers were Lynnfield residents David Crockett, Joan Bourque, Sue Lambe, Judith Doe and Vickie Cochrane.
The “runner,” Ilene Twiss (Assistant Town Clerk in Middleton), delivered ballots to each table in blocks of 50. The teller would examine each ballot by hand and state whether it was for Barrett or Shea. The recorder would then place a mark on a tally sheet next to the candidate’s name.
Barrett and Shea were each allowed to have two observers at each counting table: one observer to confirm that the teller was reading off the vote accurately and one to make sure that the recorder tallied it correctly. Candidates Shea and Barrett were also in the recount area observing the proceedings.
All but one protest resolved
If an observer for either of the candidates thought that a vote had been read or recorded incorrectly, the observer would call out, “Protest!” This occurred with some regularity throughout the morning. The candidates and/or their attorneys would then try to resolve the question at the counting table. In the end, all but one protest was so resolved. That one ballot was segregated and did not affect the outcome.
After each block of 50 was counted, the teller placed the ballots in a large envelope and sealed it. Twiss would then return and pick up the ballots and the recorder’s tally sheet and deliver them to a table where Burlington Town Clerk Amy Warfield maintained a running total on a laptop computer. Twiss then delivered a fresh stack of 50 ballots to the table and the process would repeat.
The ballots were recounted one precinct at a time, beginning with Precinct 1 and ending with Precinct 4 just before noon.
After the Board of Registrars voted unanimously to accept the recount results, Inglese asked each candidate to acknowledge that they were satisfied with the recount process.
Speaking for Shea, Keene said, “The only request that we may make is that the absentee ballot envelopes be compared to the voter cards on file to ensure that the signatures match.”
Mullen said that they were free to do so but pointed out that it was not part of the recount process. Furthermore, he said, it was not possible to match any absentee ballot to any absentee ballot application. Absentee ballots were included in the recount.
Barrett, Shea offer thanks
Barrett thanked everyone involved in the process, especially Reid.
“I have nothing but respect for the integrity of the town of Lynnfield and how this process was handled,” Barrett said.
Shea said she was appreciative of the effort that was put in by those who took part in the election and the recount, including everyone at Town Hall.
“It shows that everyone in Lynnfield really does care about our town and we live in a great community,” Shea said.