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Dering Harbor lawsuit is (partially) resolved

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Dering Harbor Village Hall.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO Dering Harbor Village Hall.

When three write-in candidates ousted the entire slate of incumbent trustees in the Village of Dering Harbor election in June the state’s smallest municipality went a bit bonkers.

Tim Hogue, the long-serving mayor, resigned followed by the village clerk and bookkeeper.

The lame duck board — in what residents decried as a scramble to retain power — attempted to appoint one of the defeated trustees as mayor and, when it seemed things couldn’t get nuttier, water usage in the village spiked by tsunami proportions, causing salt water to infiltrate the two municipal wells and prompting water restrictions just as the summer was heating up.

In the six months since the election, things have settled down considerably. John T. Colby Jr., the only holdout from the previous administration and the only one who knew where anything was in Village Hall, was appointed mayor. Patrick Parcells, a leader of the renegade write-ins, came on board to fill the year remaining in Mr. Colby’s trustee term.

Water commissioner Hap Bowditch eventually figured out that a faulty buried valve was at least partly to blame for excess water flow, and at the last village meeting it was reported that chloride levels have improved.

A new clerk, treasurer and village attorney were hired and, over the course of several marathon meetings, the new administration began to make its imprint on the community.

One of the write-in trustees is Deputy Mayor Betsy Morgan, whose requests of Mr. Hogue to adopt email as a means of communicating with the community were routinely dismissed. She has become an important coordinator of information, sending emails to village residents and following up on concerns raised during meetings.

It was Ms. Morgan who announced in an email on December 19 that the parties in a lawsuit that galvanized voter interest in the June election had been partially resolved. Brought by Brad Goldfarb, Alfredo Paredes and Martha Baker against the village, the lawsuit sought to clarify ownership of small parcels of land between their properties and village roads.

“The parties in the … case filed a stipulation with the court yesterday removing the Village as a party in the litigation as far as it relates to Goldfarb/Paredes,” Ms.Morgan wrote, adding “we are actively working on solutions to end the Baker part of this litigation as well.

“One of the Village’s biggest expenditure for decades has been litigation, and we have nothing positive to show for it,” she said. “One of the main goals of the current trustees is to end this trend, and so we are extremely pleased to announce this development.”

Mr. Colby said in a phone interview with the Reporter that the village “should never have gone to litigation in the first place.”

“It cost Tim the mayor’s job,” Mr. Colby said, “and cost the trustees their positions.”
Mr. Parcells echoed Ms. Morgan’s optimism in a written response to a request for comment from the Reporter.

“I think the approach we are taking has and will change the culture of the village for the better,” he said.