Stephen McGerty was declared the winner in the disputed election for the Stoddard select board again, after the ballots were counted three times in Cheshire Superior Court in Keene on Thursday.
“I’ve won twice now, but I’m not a selectman,” McGerty said.
Incumbent Selectman Charles Fosberry maintains something happened to the ballot box and ballots were added after the first count had him the winner.
“This is kind of disappointing that somebody did this,” Fosberry said.
Thursday’s count, conducted by Judge David Ruoff and one of his clerks, ended with McGerty winning with 109 votes to Fosberry’s 108.
Fosberry won the election in June by one vote over McGerty, 108 to 107 votes. That initial vote count also found one write-in vote for a third party and three blank votes, according to Fosberry. Days later, the town’s recount found 110 votes for McGerty and 109 for Fosberry.
“I was shocked that the judge didn’t react to the four extra ballots,” Fosberry said.
Fosberry has said that while the ballot box was in town hall, waiting for the recount, the deputy town clerk had access to the box. That deputy town clerk is Deborah McGerty, Stephen McGerty’s wife.
Fosberry brought a lawsuit against the town over the July recount, and the McGertys have denied any part in changing the number of ballots.
Stephen McGerty said it was his wife who made sure the town clerk knew to keep the ballot box sealed and locked up until the recount. Fosberry’s complaint filed in court states that Town Clerk Karen Bell had taken the sealed ballot box home with her on the night of June 23, the first vote count. However, Bell brought it back to town hall the next day, and it remained there until the recount.
The recount was initially set for June 30, but a problem with the way the recount was legally noticed required it be pushed back to July 3, according to Fosberry’s complaint. Bell told officials that she broke the seal on the ballot box on June 30 in order to get some data she would need for the recount, Fosberry’s complaint states.
Fosberry also contends that the ballot box was only sealed from the top, and access could still be gained from the bottom of the box. None of Fosberry’s arguments about the ballot box seemed to have gained traction in court.
“There were improprieties,” Stephen McGerty said. “Nothing was done out of context. Nothing was done illegally.”
Fosberry has 30 days to appeal, but said it likely does not matter as his lawyer has advised him it would be tough to overturn this recount through a legal appeal. He does not intend to run for office again.
McGerty said the position of selectman is not worth the ordeal he and Fosberry have been through.
“All I want is to do for the town. I have no agenda,” McGerty said.