BOARD OF CIVIL AUTHORITY
A municipal clerk, whether of a town, city or village, is a voting member of the board of civil authority, along with the justices and selectboard, mayor and alderboard, or village trustees, respectively. 17 V.S.A. § 2103(5); 24 V.S.A. § 801. The municipal clerk is the clerk of the board. Meetings of the board may be called by the clerk or by a selectboard member by posting notice and providing written notice to the members of the board. 24 V.S.A. § 801.
Several statutes say how many members of the board must be present in order to conduct business:
• The act of a majority of the board present at the meeting shall be treated as an act of the board, except when the board is dealing with election issues. 17 V.S.A. § 2103(5); 24 V.S.A. § 801.
• Except as otherwise provided in this title, a majority of the members of the board of civil authority shall constitute a quorum. 17 V.S.A. § 2103 (5).
• Those members of the board of civil authority present at a polling place shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business relating to the conduct of the election. 17 V.S.A. § 2451.
When applied to the two separate functions of the board of civil authority, these statutes appear to mean that when the board is hearing tax appeals, the concurrence of a majority of the members present is considered an action by the board. For instance, if four members of a nine-member board are present, and three of them vote in favor of a motion, that motion has the force of an act by the entire board.
When dealing with election issues, however, two other rules apply:
1. When the board meets to purge or add to the checklist, a majority of the members must be present to form a quorum. For instance, if a board consists of nine members,
five of them must be present to conduct business. Presumably, under the general rule in 1 V.S.A. § 174, all five members present would have to concur in order to take action.
2. If an election is in progress and the polls are open, a single member of the board who is present at the polling place constitutes a quorum and can make decisions on behalf of the entire board regarding conduct of the election and qualifications and registration of voters.
As part of its elections authority, the board of civil authority also administers the voter’s oath, conducts elections and performs recounts within its political subdivision 17 V.S.A. §§ 2124, 2451, 2685. The municipal clerk shall be the presiding officer at the polling place, unless unavailable or the town votes otherwise. If there is more than one polling place, the board shall appoint a voter of the town to serve in that capacity for each additional site. 17 V.S.A. §§ 2451-2453.
For discussion of the tax appeal responsibility of the board of civil authority and the clerk’s related duties, see Chapter XI, section F of this handbook. For a more in-depth discussion of the board’s functions, see Chapter 4 of the Handbook for Vermont Selectboards, 2nd edition.