By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — A city resident filed an objection to School Committee member Robert Vogler appearing on the November ballot, saying Vogler currently is serving a third term and is barred from running again by the city charter.
Jack Burke, who has challenged and tangled with city officials in the past, said in the objection that the appointment in May of Vogler, who served in 2009 and 2011, to finish the term of Mark Graziano counted as his third consecutive term, disqualifying him from running this fall.
Former City Solicitor Peter McQuillan issued an opinion in May, saying Vogler’s appointment would not count as a term and that he would still qualify. Vogler said before the opinion was issued that he would not accept the position if he could not run in the election.
Burke faulted McQuillan’s opinion, saying state law distinguishes “full term” from “term,” and that because the charter did not make a distinction, the state’s definitions of the words should be used.
“There are some laws that use the word “full term,” so it’s been defined,” Burke said in an interview. “Since it was defined at the state level and it was used in our charter, you can’t just throw it in.”
Vogler said he “acted in good faith” based on the city solicitor’s official legal opinion.
In his May opinion, McQuillan cited the charter, which defined a School Committee member’s term as being “two years, beginning the first secular day of January after election and until their successors are qualified...” He concluded that because the language must be given its usual meaning, Vogler’s truncated time on the committee “cannot be considered a full ‘term’ under this provision of the charter.”
Burke said in his written objection to City Clerk Christine Touma-Conway, dated July 31, that a vacancy in an office, when no one can execute that office’s duties, is not the same as an unexpired term, which continues on even if the office is vacant.
“The plain language says you can’t hold office for more than three consecutive terms,” Burke said. “It’s a very simple question. Mr. Vogler is holding office in each of those three terms. If that’s the case, there is no way his name should appear on the ballot.”
He said he started researching the question when Vogler was appointed in May, after Graziano, a freshman School Committee member, stepped down to move into a new house in Salem, N.H.
Vogler, who said he did not know about the objection until a reporter called him yesterday afternoon, expressed frustration that the objection was not made earlier.
“My disappointment with him, this was months ago, and to wait until everyone gets their signatures is really bush league,” he said.
According to state law, residents have until two working days after papers are due to file objections. Nomination papers were due July 30.
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