"Patti had a previous engagement with constituents," said Baugh. "She didn't make a promise to attend the candidate's night, which was not a debate. Attendance at the LWV event was not required, and by not attending she was not being unaccountable."
"Meet the Candidates Night, debate, call it what you will," said Crowell. "People want to see how the candidates respond on their feet, handling tough questions and heckling from the audience. Mary Beth did this very well. It's not the same as going door to door; it's a more formal format."
As the panel wrestled with the parameters of running a fair campaign, Hynes, in a statement released before the panel convened, said the negative campaigning originated with Southworth supporters.
"There have been numerous letters to the editors by (Southworth's) supporters that attempt to assassinate my character," said Hynes, producing about a dozen letters. "Her campaign has repeatedly attacked me as being a political pawn, a puppet, being without character and lacking integrity and honesty. Now, she has the gall to say she's run a positive campaign. Her hypocrisy is stunning."
Southworth's complaint also asserts it was misleading to say she had no public record, since she has held no public office.
"Patti has made her views on everything from Wal-Mart to land preservation well known," said Baugh. "She has frequently been the only attendee at every town council meeting. She has spoken a zoning and planning board meetings and at every public hearing. Her record is proven."
Southworth lost her bid for a town council seat last year to Paul Farnan, who resigned in February. Hynes was chosen from a number of candidates including Southworth and appointed to the open slot. Under public service law, Hynes must now be elected to continue to serve.
Both candidates said they would continue their footwork over the next several days going door-to-door to meet next week's voters.
The panel will release its findings on Southworth's complaints within the next 24 hours, and will make those records public. The ruling comes without any legal ramifications.