|John Vitkevich speaks at the PWFD Board meeting
At the meeting of the Portsmouth Water and Fire District Board on the evening of May 15, the group voted, 4-2, to reject the nomination papers of John Vitkevich, denying him a place on the ballot for the June 13 election.
At issue was a mismatch between Vitkevich's "Declaration of Candidacy" (the form indicating intent to seek office) which was made out for the position of "Tax Collector," and the nomination papers (on which candidates gather the signatures of eligible voters who nominate them for a position) which was made out for "Tax Assessor."
Vitkevich had returned 31 valid signatures nominating him for Tax Assessor, although he told the Board his intent had been to run for Tax Collector. This was acknowledged, at the meeting, to have been a clerical error when the nomination papers were issued.
Vitkevich argued that it was the fault of the PWFD. "I was handed those by staff," he said. "I got signatures and told everybody I was running for tax collector."
The Board's attorney, David Fox, advised the Board they had two options: Reject the nomination papers outright, or accept them as an intent to run for the position noted on the form.
There was some discussion of the options, and Vitkevich stated that he "would not run for assessor." Asked if he had read the papers listing the incorrect office, he said, "I did read them."
Fox made the observation that everybody who signed the papers "could presumably read English," to which Vitkevich responded, "Of course they could. They don't speak Spanish."
When general manager Jessica Lynch said that the staff error was not intentional, Vitkevich responded, "Oh yes it was."
One member of the Board asked if it was possible to reschedule the election, to which another candidate in attendance responded, "You will get complaints from the other candidates." Attorney Fox also indicated that the date was set in the Board's by-laws.
After about fifteen minutes of discussion, the Board voted to reject Vitkevich's papers, 4-2.
Chair Phil Driscoll and Treasurer Allen Shers were in the minority, with Tax Assessors Ted Czech and Michael Nott, Moderator Ron Molleur, and Tax Collector Fred Faerber voting to reject. Water Commissioner Andrew Kelly was not in attendance.
Vitkevich promised he would appeal the decision to the Board of Elections and contact news media. "This is not gonna look good on the Portsmouth Water and Fire District," he said. He demanded a copy of the declaration of candidacy, which Lynch provided.
Editorial note: I was certified, at this meeting, to appear on the ballot for Tax Assessor, and I was the candidate who objected to the proposal to move the date of the election. No other news media were in attendance, or I would not have reported on this since I was a participant. Since I was not expecting to report on this, I did not bring my recorder, so quotes are from my handwritten notes; since the meeting was recorded officially, I stand ready to update if I got anything wrong.