More in News
Work to begin on recall ordinance
MEXICO -- In response to a citizen petition submitted by Dr. Albert Aniel to the Board of Selectmen to create a recall ordinance, selectmen voted 3-1 on Sept. 24 to ask the Planning Board to draft a recall ordinance for the town.
Selectman Reggie Arsenault was the lone dissenter, while Selectman Peter Merrill abstained from voting because he arrived after the discussion was held.
Aniel, who said the petition was signed by close to 150 people, had attempted to submit a recall ordinance at a Planning Board meeting in August, saying the town “needed an ordinance to be able to remove selectmen if they were not acting in the best interest of the voters, abusing their position, acted inappropriately or were convicted of a crime.”
The recall ordinance was shot down by a 4-3 vote at that meeting.
Town Manager John Madigan said he had sent a copy of the petition to the town's attorney, Jeffrey Hole, and Madigan then read the response, which said, in part, that a petition must be for a particular article. "This petition does not present a particular article and a recall ordinance, and accordingly, and legally, I do not believe the select board has to go forward with this petition. Of course, the select board always has the ability to prepare a recall ordinance and an article for presentation to the voters."
From that, Board Chairman Richie Philbrick noted, "We'd have to come up with an ordinance; we could get it to the Planning Board to say we'd like to have an ordinance for it so they would have an article. Because right now it's not an article."
Madigan added, "Citizen petitions should create an ordinance, are supposed to provide the ordinance, a specific ordinance, and this doesn't do any of that. You can't just have a recall ordinance without provisions for how is it going to be done, what the process is, how many signatures are required for a recall."
"Some towns that have these things for the protection of the town say that candidates for the recall selectmen can run the same election that they vote for the recall so that, if the town votes to recall anybody, then they have a pool of candidates already elected so there's no disruption to the town government like as such happened in Peru. They ran for a month or two with just one selectmen, and that's clearly not a majority of anything for being able to do the town business, sign checks, and those other kind of things," he said.
"So you need to have all those kinds of provisions thought of and scrutinized so that you have a workable document if that's in fact what the people want to have," noted the town manager.
Madigan pointed out that one section of the petition said, "Failure to appropriately carry out the duties and responsibilities of the office such as failure to represent the will of the people."
He noted, "That is such a vague statement that you need a definition for that, so that any court or anybody would know what the will of the people means."
Aniel said, "What this petition basically states is that it's not an ordinance but a request that selectmen come up with a recall ordinance. The ordinance is about a two- or three-page project that I presented to the Planning Board. That's why the petition was made in the spirit for the people to vote, and to let their selectmen know, that we request the selectmen to come up with a recall petition."
He added that the petition he came up with "is pretty much the same one that the Town of Sumner had adopted. The recall petition is pretty much a generic tool that every town ought to have because if something happens, misbehavior, etc., how do recall such a person?"
"If the majority of the people want a certain thing being done, and if a selectman says he will do whatever he can not to do it, he's not representing the will of the people," he said.
Madigan noted that those kinds of statements have to have a definition "that describes what the will of the people is. That's what it takes a much longer ordinance so everyone understands knows exactly..."
Aniel cut in, "So the bottom line is, is what are the selectmen willing to do to come up with a recall ordinance? I think we ought to have it for whatever reason in the future. Several towns have one and I think it's essential to have one as well."
Selectman George Byam said, "We should have a valid policy in effect. Why don't we just instruct the Planning Board to adopt a ordinance regarding this subject, let them work on it and bring it back when they get it done."
Aniel said, "The reason I brought it here and I had people come up with a petition is because the Planning Board had refused it."
Philbrick responded, "And now the selectmen would bring it to the Planning Board to say that we want it done."
"I can live with that," said Aniel.
Selectman Byron Ouellette then made a motion "that we create an ordinance."
That was seconded by Philbrick.
Madigan asked if Aniel only presented the Sumner ordinance to the Planning Board, which he acknowledged.
The town manager asked that Aniel present several different town recall ordinances to the Planning Board.
Arsenault, who also serves on the Planning Board, said, "We did have a few to look at when we discussed it in length at the last Planning Board meeting. Five of the eight Planning Board members did not believe that an ordinance was needed in the Town of Mexico. They felt that the Board of Selectmen worked quite well together. Five of the eight said 'didn't want it, don't need it, didn't want to do it.'"
He then said, "I'll have AVCOG (Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments) see if they can give us some legal terms of how a proper one should be done."
Arsenault said work on that will begin at the October meeting of the Planning Board.
Resident Andy Dupuis said, "The people elected the selectmen. The people should have a right to recall them if need be."
Philbrick responded, "Well that's why we agreed to do the ordinance together."