On May 11, 2022

Former Barnard Select Board member accuses town official of making offensive posters leading up to election

By Curt Peterson

Tim Johnson, a Select Board member of 20 years in Barnard, lost his seat to former town lister Richard Lancaster at Barnard’s Town Meeting. Johnson initially accepted the outcome as “democratic and fair.”

He told the Mountain Times, “My loss was due to very low attendance.”

About 60 voters were present — Barnard nominations are made from the floor and voted by those present.

Johnson subsequently received a photo of two posters hand-scrawled on cardboard, which Johnson alleges were originated by, or in collaboration with, Barnard Road Foreman Jeff Tracy. He believes the posters were part of an organized effort to remove him from the Select Board.

“Anyone But Tim Johnson for Selectman! F### That Guy! 2022,” the posters said.

Johnson claims the posters were distributed on social media prior to Town Meeting when Johnson was still a board member, and, he alleges, hung in public at the town garage.

Features in the photograph, including the office window in the background and Tracy’s coffee mug indicate it was taken inside the town garage office. This is “evidence” Johnson provided to the Select Board when filing a complaint against Tracy.

“A member of the road crew made the signs at home off town time and brought them to the garage to share with the rest of the crew,” Jeff Tracy told the Mountain Times. “[The photo] was taken on a personal cell phone and sent to a private group of people, all who live outside of Barnard. The signs were never posted in public or on social media.”

Years ago Johnson and former selectman Tom Morse had video cameras installed in the garage. Johnson feels the camera’s recordings will show who brought the posters into the office and perhaps who photographed them.

Tracy also referenced the video recordings as evidence his version of the story is accurate.

“I offered to prove (I was not the one that made the signs) by showing them footage on the security cameras here at the garage,” he said.

In 2020 the Select Board adopted a personnel policy, which is signed by each employee.

Johnson claims Tracy violated several parts of the 2020 personnel policy, including conducting himself in a respectful manner with appointed officials, using town time for personal purposes, using town facilities for political purposes, expressing political views during working hours, and using town facilities for personal purposes without selectmen approval.

In his opinion, the Select Board has no alternative but to terminate Tracy.

According to Tracy, “… the Select Board can discipline us for anything we do, whether on town time or personal time, that they deem misbehavior.”

Johnson is as disappointed with the Select Board as he is angry with Tracy.

During his years as selectman, “no issue between a resident and a town employee would have gotten this far without clear resolution.”

On March 3 he wrote to Select Board administrator Rob Ramrath, filing his complaint, requesting investigation, and suggesting appropriate disciplinary action. Having no response, he again contacted Ramrath on March 23, asking for an update and suggesting an executive session for the next Select Board meeting.

Ramrath replied he had no update for Johnson, and was not planning an executive session.

On April 3 Johnson spelled out the sequence of events and cited more “evidence” regarding the alleged offenses. He said he had consulted an attorney and set an April 20 deadline for a “full update.”

Ramrath’s official response on April 8 reported, “The Barnard Selectboard takes these allegations seriously. In accordance with the Barnard personnel policy, the Selectboard has investigated the situation and is taking appropriate actions.”

On May 4 the selectmen held an executive session to discuss “personnel matters.” No vote was taken.

Asked if a decision was made, the administrator told the Mountain Times the Select Board “does not comment on personnel issues.”

At that meeting Steve Johnson, Tim Johnson’s brother, suggested changing the election system to providing day-long hours for voting by ballot, thus allowing more Barnard voters to participate in elections.

“It would help prevent this kind of situation,” he said.

Select Board chair Rock Webster said the suggestion was a good one and promised to look into how it could be done.

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