Richard Sager met with the selectmen on Monday, May 1, to tell them that they can still conduct an auction of tax-deeded properties even though Town Meeting voted to restrict the selectmen to selling the properties by sealed bids only. He then went own to promote his own services as auctioneer.
You may want to review the video from Town Meeting of Article 9 being amended:
(If you want, you can skip to the 15:12 mark to see Steven Snow amend the article specifically to restrict the selectmen’s authority to selling properties by sealed bid.)
The language of the amended article as passed by a show of hands (i.e. with a clear majority) was:
To see if the Town will vote pursuant to RSA 80:80 to authorize the Selectmen to convey real property acquired by the Town by Tax Collector’s Deed by advertised sealed bid.
Sager incorrectly thought the language was:
To see if the Town will vote pursuant to RSA 80:80 to authorize the Selectmen to convey real property acquired by the Town by Tax Collector’s Deed by advertised sealed bid or in such manner as determined by the Selectmen as justice may require.
This is because the first draft of the minutes was incorrect. However, Heather Cubeddu, Town Clerk, has corrected the minutes on the town website. Sager likely printed out the draft minutes back in March and then didn’t check to see if they had been updated before his meeting with the selectmen.
He told the selectmen that, according to a conversation he had with someone at the New Hampshire Municipal Association, the words “as justice may require” mean that the selectmen could still do an auction even though “public auction” was specifically removed from the article by the voters. However, as demonstrated, Town Meeting removed the the “as justice may require” language completely, rendering Sager’s argument moot.
The relevant statute, as reference in the warrant article, is 80:80-II, and reads:
If the selectmen or mayor are so authorized to convey such property by deed, either a public auction shall be held, or the property may be sold by advertised sealed bids. The selectmen or mayor shall have the power to establish a minimum amount for which the property is to be sold and the terms and conditions of the sale.
Clearly, the selectmen are “so authorized” to sell tax-deeded properties by “advertised sealed bid” only. The selectmen are not “so authorized” to conduct a “public auction.”
The selectmen had simply forgotten that the article had been amended. But I have sent them the above video from Town Meeting, and I am sure that after they review it they will follow the will of the voters and not conduct an auction.