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New group, calling itself Friends of Fairhaven Wind, says town needs to hold new election for all contested positions

FAIRHAVEN – Selectmen postponed setting a date for a new Board of Health election Monday, saying they will decide at their next meeting, July 1.

Select Board Chairman Charles Murphy Sr. said they would postpone their decision because they hadn’t received the judge’s “order.”

Mr. Murphy said the town needs to give 51 days’ notice in advance of an election, which means it will probably take place sometime in September.

Members of a new group calling itself Friends of Fairhaven Wind told selectmen the town should hold a new election for all the contested positions on the ballot last April.

Daniel Freitas, a former member of the Board of Public Works, said if the election was as flawed as the judge says, the entire election should be redone.

Mr. Freitas said, “I find it hypocritical that you can say it’s just the Board of Health.” He said if the election wasn’t handled properly, as Windwise claims, a new election should be held for all the contested seats.

Attorney Ann DeNardis, who represented Board of Health candidate John Wethington in the court challenge, said the judge only ruled in favor of a new election for the Board of Health.

“They should have joined us in the lawsuit,” she said of those advocating for a new election for all contested seats. “No one else contested the election,” she said.

Ms. DeNardis asked why selectmen didn’t have a copy of Judge Robert Kane’s eight-page decision, which was given to the attorneys present and news media on Monday, June 17. She said the only changes to be made later that week involved minor typos.

Mr. Murphy said the board hadn’t received the final version yet from Town Counsel Thomas Crotty. He said Mr. Crotty was planning to be at the meeting and that Town Clerk Eileen Lowney was supposed to come too, “but that didn’t come to fruition.”

Mr. Murphy said he “believed the Board of Health race would be open to other candidates from what I gather.”

Also expressing the need for a new election was Registrar Sonny Eggleston. Mr. Eggleston said he hadn’t read the judge’s opinion, but based his opinion “on what I know. But I do believe there should be an entire ballot,” with all contested seats.

Outside the meeting room, Mr. Freitas said he was part of a group just formed called Friends of Fairhaven Wind.

Jeannine Lopes, a member of the Board of Health who was with the new group, said, “I agree there should be a new election.”

Ms. Lopes said the new group “just started up.” She said they “are going to get more involved in town.”

Ms. Lopes said what “spurred it is that we are just really tired of hearing the rhetoric that was going on” from wind turbine opponents in Windwise.

In his opinion, Judge Kane said the court should be reluctant to call for a new election, but that the Board of Health race was so close the irregularities could have affected the outcome.

Asked if she had read the judge’s decision, Ms. Lopes said she hadn’t, but she cited another close election for Planning Board, which Cathy Melanson ended up losing by 14 votes.

Ms. Lopes said maybe the selectmen should get an opinion from the state Elections Division about whether the town should hold a whole new election, including all open seats.