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Hussey has one year to decide
PERU- More than 500 voters turned out last week to have their say in town matters and to elect a new member to the five-member board of selectmen. While at the same time deciding that they didn’t want to have town employees hold public office simultaneously.
Chairman Tim Holland was re-elected, but Rick Vaughn lost his seat to Richard Powell, after opponent, John Witherell, conceded due to a tie vote.
Secretary to Selectmen/Selectman, Kathy Hussey, was elected last year for a three year seat on the board. Since then, many citizens, as well as the selectmen have felt there was a conflict of interest.
Earlier this year a citizen’s petition requested the town to place a policy into effect that a town employee, with the exception of fire chief, not be allowed to hold public office.
That decision was discussed at the packed selectmen’s meeting on Monday after Town Clerk, Vera Parent, confirmed legalities with the Maine Municipal Association (MMA).
“They told me that the policy cannot legally be bound until the next annual meeting, because we didn’t have an effective date posted in the article.” stated Parent. “Essentially, Kathy (Hussey) has one year to decide if she wants to take out papers for the secretary position, which is now an elected position, or if she wants to finish her term on the board. If we were going the other way, from an elected position to a town employee, then she would have to decide within 90 days of the vote.”
Newly-elected selectman, Dickie Powell, brought forth a copy of the town policy, enacted by a board of selectmen roughly two years ago, and asked Chairman Holland to read it.
The policy stated that town employees may not seek or accept election to any office in town government.
Selectman Powell asked for clarification from a legal opinion, as he didn’t understand its’ intention.
Selectman Ed Ferland, who normally keeps to himself during board meetings, noted, “For the good of the whole board, I agree with Dickie and think we should have this looked at.”
After selectmen and town clerk Vera Parent tossed around their interpretations of the policy, Selectman Laurieann Milligan agreed with Chairman Holland that, “Personnel policy is enforceable to a point. An ordinance is enforceable, as a policy isn’t.”
“If you want it looked at further,” noted Selectman Milligan. “All the power to you. Let’s have it looked at.”
Selectman Powell assured the packed meeting, “This is not a personality thing, it’s a policy thing.”
Voters who turned out at last week’s polls approved a $873,997 municipal budget, while saying no to the addition of a public works vehicle to the tune of $90,000. They also approved $60,000 to be spent to replace the town office roof, as well as the two entry/exit doors.
Road Commissioner, Joe Roach, will receive a 5-percent raise and the town will continue to pay health benefits for town employees.