Hey Wallingford, Your Trustee Is an Absentee

Back in March 2021, Bruce Moreton was elected to a three-year term on the Mill River Unified Union School Board (MRUUSD, pronounced exactly as spelled) as a representative of the town of Wallingford. Six months later, by all appearances, he moved to Rutland.

He has, again by all appearances, lived there ever since.

Ya like that, Wallingford?

This story comes to us by way of the Rutland Herald, which reported on February 16 that the Wallingford Board of Civil Authority had removed Moreton from the town’s voter checklist.

He’s ineligible to vote in Wallingford. Will he have to give up his seat on the school board?

The MRUUSD includes Clarendon, Shrewsbury, Tinmouth, and Wallingford. Each town gets to elect its own Board members. Clarendon and Wallingford have four seats apiece, Shrewsbury and Tinmouth each have one. Rutland is conspicuous by its absence.

Moreton ran for school board in 2021 as part of a conservative slate inspired to run by the flying of Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride flags over Mill River Union High School. At the time, Moreton was fresh off “retiring” from his job with the school district. The separation was, or so I’ve been told, triggered by his homphobia and racial insensitivity.

Ironically enough, Moreton was appointed to the school board’s Personnel Committee, whose charge is “to oversee the hiring, compensation, evaluation and termination of school district personnel and provide recommendations to the full board for approval.”

I’m sure he approached his duties untainted by bad feelings over his “retirement.”

By September of 2021, Moreton had apparently relocated to Rutland. He acknowledged that his landlord had terminated his lease and he’d been unable to find suitable housing in Wallingford, but said he intended to renovate a building at a summer camp he owns into a year-round residence. He was prevented from doing so immediately because of winter weather, he claimed, but he promised to move back into the district by the fall of 2022.

Why that was acceptable to anyone, I have no idea. In spring 2022, the Wallingford BCA received a petition challenging Moreton’s residency. According to the Herald, the board “voted to authorize the town clerk to challenge the voter, based on the request, and to send challenge letters regularly on its behalf. …the minutes do not indicate that the BCA took any further action.”

Which brings us to winter 2023. An entire construction season went by with no indication that Moreton had completed his reno project or found any sort of pièd à terre in Wallingford. Town resident (and former school board member) Ken Fredette, who’d been one of the signatories on the 2022 petition, again brought the issue directly before the BCA.

Finally, in mid-February, the BCA voted 6-4 to remove Moreton from the voter rolls. (The minority wanted to kick the can down the road with more letters and such.)

The ball is now in the school board’s court. It ought to announce a vacancy within 10 days of receiving notification of the BCA’s action because as a nonresident, Moreton is disqualified from occupying his post.

Whether the school board acts, and how it chooses to proceed, should tell you all you need to know about whether there’s a conservative majority on the putatively nonpartisan board. Moreton is one of their allies, and we’re on the precipice of an election in which three school board seats are up for grabs.

Given conservative obsession with the purity of voter checklists, trustees of a right-wing persuasion ought to be gung ho about removing a nonresident. Somehow I doubt that will be the case. If the majority is in Moreton’s corner, I expect they’ll give him a fresh opportunity to get his butt officially back to Wallingford. A trustee with a spare bedroom might even give him an address of convenience until his long-delayed camp retrofit can be completed.

But if you look at the situation objectively, it’s obvious that Moreton should have been disqualified long ago from representing the good people of Wallingford. He has repeatedly promised to move back to town, only to blow past every one of his self-imposed deadlines. “Good faith,” it’s safe to say, is not part of his equation.

It should be an open-and-shut case. So far, it has been anything but. We’ll see where it goes from here.


2 thoughts on “Hey Wallingford, Your Trustee Is an Absentee

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