Recall Hearing Begins

Reading, MA — The Board of Registrars public hearing to determine the veracity of the objections posed by Vanessa Alvarado to the recall affidavit and petition got underway on Monday, June 29 and Tuesday, June 30. Prior to the hearing, Alvarado withdrew her objections to the recall petition itself, choosing to focus on the original affidavit. The virtual hearing began with instructions from Town Clerk Laura Gemme regarding how the hearing would be conducted and with advice from Town Counsel Ray Miyares.

Miyares reminded the board that the burden of proof lies with the objector and that the board is not to review the case based on their belief regarding the “truth or falsity of the affidavit. That is for the voters to decide” but on the form of the affidavit itself. Miyares shared his opinion that the title on the affidavit as “recall petition” and not as an affidavit was a “harmless error.” He also shared his belief that the grounds of the affidavit, sworn to by the single filer John Arena, was sufficient based on the unique wording of the Reading Town Charter. He concluded his remarks charging the board to reach their decision on the basis of the evidence alone.

Attorney Dennis Newman, speaking for Alvarado, began his brief presentation stating his opinion that the case is “boiled down to one thing: is the affidavit sufficient? Should the petition have been issued?” He based his case on two points. The first is the lack of notarization on the affidavit and the second asserting that the 250 persons who signed the affidavit did not do so under the penalty of perjury. Newman cited a case from Winchester where an affidavit was denied by the court due to the lack of notarization, stating that he believes that it is similar to what has occurred in Reading. “It was not signed under the pains and penalties of perjury,” Newman concluded.

During the ensuing discussion, Newman withdrew his other three objections to the affidavit.

Former Select Board member Dan Ensminger, presenting on behalf of the petitioners, began by renewing his concern that the objection was not filed in a timely manner. Miyares disagreed, simply stating, “The objection was timely.” Ensminger continued stating that that, in his belief, the charter only calls for one affidavit and that this affidavit was sworn by Arena before the Town Clerk and it was affixed with the town seal. Gemme confirmed this assertion. “The affidavit is sufficient in all ways, by the charter.” Ensminger declared.

Members of the board spent about an hour reviewing the evidence that had been presented and asked several pointed questions of both presenters. Ultimately the board members determined that they need to review the evidence overnight and that they will resume deliberations on Wednesday, July 1 at 4:00 pm.

The Board of Registrars adjourned at 5:50 pm.

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