Lincoln auditor resigns post, runs for selectboard

LINCOLN — A Lincoln auditor has resigned his post, and citing frustration with the way business is done in town is throwing his cap into the ring for the March 2010 race for a three-year term on the selectboard.
Elwin Isham was elected to serve as an auditor on Town Meeting Day this year. But now, because of his decision to run for the selectboard, Isham said he’s resigning his post to avoid any potential conflict of interest.
Chief on Isham’s list of complaints about the current Lincoln selectboard is the way the board manages — or, in Isham’s view, mismanages — the town’s highway department.
“I started seeing some things that didn’t look right with the town,” Isham said. “I had some questions for the selectboard, and I got answers but I didn’t think they were right.”
Isham says that, after looking through town records, he thinks the town’s highway crew has run up “astronomical bills.” He alleges that some town road employees are unqualified to do their jobs, and their inexperience is costing Lincoln taxpayers money.
After digging through records from 2007 and 2008, Isham estimates the town has “wasted” as much as $200,000.
“We paid for hauling gravel when we had trucks that were sitting in the garage,” he said.
Isham also said that the town’s selectmen have failed to maintain Lincoln’s roads. He says many of the town’s roads were rebuilt by the Federal Emergency Management Agency following a disastrous flood in 1998.
The selectboard, Isham said, has been “bumping … money into wasted help over the years, not maintaining the roads.”
He also pointed out that, in his opinion, culverts are in rough shape, as are many of the town’s bridges.
“It’s just a whole conglomerate of stuff,” he said.
Isham first began speaking up last winter, and during budget planning meetings before Town Meeting Day he angled to change the town’s spending plan to eliminate the mechanic on staff and replace the road commissioner.
Isham is also frustrated by the way the selectboard operates. He alleges that selectmen often appear at meetings unprepared, and the agenda posted before the meeting doesn’t always reflect the content of the meeting that follows. In his opinion, the board doesn’t follow Vermont’s rules for board governance, and he thinks the board uses excessive executive sessions.
“What I would like to see is more openness, more accountability, and letting the townspeople know what’s going on, not trying to cover things up,” Isham said.
Selectboard Chair Gerald “Beanie” Masterson said Isham’s resignation as auditor comes at a bad time for the town, when budget discussions for next year are gearing up.
“He waited until right now to resign,” Masterson said. “He left when we needed him.”
The town has been able to fill two of its three auditor positions, and the selectboard is set to appoint a third auditor at an upcoming meeting.
“I think (Isham) would have done a good job (as auditor),” Masterson said. “He tries to get to the bottom of things. Unfortunately, he decided it would be a conflict of interest, which I don’t understand.”
Masterson characterized some of Isham’s beliefs about the state of town affairs as “half truths.”
Isham applied to be appointed to a vacancy on the selectboard in October, following Selectman Don Mayo’s death on Sept. 15. Six candidates — Floyd Hall, Isham, Ethan Ready, Jim Adams and Will Sipsey — threw their hats into the ring for the interim seat on the board. The board weighed the six applications in an executive session on Oct. 6, and ultimately chose Ready to fill Mayo’s seat on the board.
Now Isham, a three-year resident of the town, will run for that same seat on Town Meeting Day. No one else has announced their intention to run yet, but Masterson predicted Isham would face an “uphill battle” for the seat.
“He has some beliefs, as I do, about things that need to get done in town,” Masterson said, “and he thinks they need to happen 10 minutes before we even think about them.”

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