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Tempers flare; Fizzle meeting
PERU- What started out as a typical selectman's meeting Monday night, ended abruptly when several citizens of the town, lead by John and Martha Witherell, began yelling at Chairman of the Board, Tim Holland. Not being able to settle the room, Holland called a recess, while fellow selectman, Ed Ferland got up, grabbed his briefcase and stormed out, stating, “I'm outta here! You guys can have your meeting!”
The dispute in question comes from a citizen's petition to ensure that town employees do not hold public office while employed by the town. In April, the citizens came forward with a petition signed by 140 residents who wanted to see a question put to vote to enforce the resignation of town employees if they were to be elected to a town seat.
According to Selectman Laurieann Milligan, “We realized we had an issue a long time before that. It was two weeks prior to the citizens coming forth that we (the selectmen) had drafted up an ordinance to place in front of the people for the exact reason this citizens group was collecting signatures. We're really all on the same page.”
When the meeting was called back to order, Chairman Holland noted, “I will talk to one person. I will not have five people yelling at me. Now, John, will you please explain to me what the issue is?”
John Witherell stepped forward, raised his voice, and noted, “The article is not anything like what you said it was going to be. It's not how it was supposed to read. I haven't seen anything this sleazy in a long time, Tim.”
At that point several people began yelling again. Martha Witherell yelled, “You're doing your best to make it as difficult as you can for people to vote.”
Town Clerk Vera Parent stated, “We are making it well known for people to vote. We are posting the ordinance in the booths and making sure each ballot has it attached. We've never done that before.”
Again, yelling from the citizens broke out. Order was called and Selectman Milligan noted, “I love that you are all passionate. That means that you want to have a say in your town. But, what we need to do is understand that we are held here by state law and we need to be in accordance with what they mandate of us.”
With chaos in the room, Chairman Holland called for adjournment and the meeting came to an end.
According to Martha Witherell, during a conversation following adjournment, “The selectmen wouldn't accept our petition in combination with theirs. This is a deliberate attempt to do things their way and not listen to the taxpayers.”
Chairman Holland noted later, “We need to have an ordinance in place in order to enforce it. We can't have it stated as a policy, or we would never be able to enforce it. By state law, Title 30, the board can offer a competing article. We need to do something here. If this ordinance is rejected, then we will continue to have an issue.”
The article that will be put forth to vote by citizens at the June 12 referendum meeting reads, “Shall the town adopt an ordinance for Political Activity Involving Town employees dated April 9, 2012? Selectmen and Finance committee recommend yes.
There will be a public hearing on the warrant on June 4 at the Dirigo Elementary School, beginning at 6 p.m.
Absentee ballots can be requested by phone call to the town office, 562-4627. They will need to be returned by June 7. Hours of the town office are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.