Procedural and substantive objections in Peru
To the Editor:
I am making procedural and substantive objections to the decisions made by the Peru Board of Selectmen at the board meeting on June 18, 2012.
Recent relevant history
A petition was presented to the selectmen, signed by more than the required number of Peru registered voters and certified sufficient by the town clerk for an article to be placed on the town ballot to determine if voters would approve of an ordinance that would forbid an employee of the Town of Peru from holding an elected office. Mr. Holland stated that “the petition was not worth the paper it was printed on because it did not have a copy of the ordinance attached”. Mr. Holland then stated that he had prepared an ordinance that was equivalent and that would be on the ballot instead. There were numerous objections made to Mr. Holland not including the language of the voters’ petition on the ballot. The objections were recorded on videotape. The voters approved the article that forbid employees of the Town of Peru from holding elected office.
At the June 18, 2012 selectmen’s meeting, Mr. Holland stated that because the ordinance he wrote and submitted to the voters did not include the date when the ordinance would take effect, anyone employed and holding office would be allowed to serve out their current term. Mr. Holland read his interpretation to the people at the meeting but no copies were made available to the voters at the meeting or after. A public records request for the written interpretation on Tuesday to Mr. Parent on June 19, at the town email address was not received by Ms. Parent by June 21, when I handed Ms. Parent a hard copy of my public records request.
At the June 18, 2012 selectmen’s meeting, there was discussion about the Town of Peru’s Personnel Policy, Section XXI, p. 6, signatures dated December 2010, noted at the bottom of the page as reviewed on 03-221-2011, computer filed as PersonnelPolicyRev 03-21-2011.doc that states: “While performing their normal work duties, employees may not seek or accept nomination or election to any office in the town government.” Some voters interpreted Section XXI, which was not made public previously, as meaning that the petition for forbidding a Peru employee from holding a Peru elected office as being unnecessary and the the present secretary of the board should never have been allowed to run for office. The discussion at the meeting was ended when Mr. Holland said the lack of an effective date on the ordinance, that he wrote, meant the ordinance could not be applied retroactively.
So, based on a validated petition by the voters that was ignored, and the fact that a defective ordinance authored or contracted out to be written by Mr. Holland was placed on the ballot instead of what was written by the petitioners, and the absence of written, publicly available documentation to support Mr. Holland’s interpretation of ordinances, statutes, and personnel policies, and the fact that Mr. Holland is not legally trained in Maine civil statutory or constitutional interpretation formally or by experience, and the fact that Mr. Holland has made errors of legal interpretation in the past, and the fact that the voters of Peru approved an ordinance forbidding employees of Peru from holding town office in Peru, and the fact that an employee of the Town of Peru simultaneously holding a position as an elected officer is a prima facie conflict of interest as noted in the Peru personnel policies and the petition by Peru registered voters and the votes of Peru register voters: I make the following formal objections to be considered by and voted upon immediately by the Peru Board of Selectmen:
I object to the election of Mr. Tim Holland as chairman of the Board of Peru Selectmen because the present secretary of the Peru Board of Selectmen is an employee of the Town of Peru and as such cannot hold an elected town officer position; therefore her vote is invalid and the election of Mr. Holland as chairman is invalid. Until the status of Ms. Hussey is established, I am making a continuing objection to her voting on any matter that comes before the board. I also object to the board vote last week that selected a chairman because Ms. Hussey voted when she, at the least, should have abstained. The vote for chairman was not and is not valid.
I object to the new policy of the town of Peru, as written on the selectmen’s agenda of June 18, 2012, that “FYI -- Copies of paperwork for items on the agenda may be requested by the public after the meeting -- possible charge.” This statement is not just silly, it means the people who have an interest in a topic to be discussed at the meeting do not have access to the documents so can not make fact-based objections or fact-based supports to the board’s consideration of the topic. In effect, this statement not only chills public participation it blocks meaningful participation by the people. It is a simple matter to send electronic copies of documents prior to the meeting to those who are interested, or to make copies for those who request them at the meeting. The facts are that only a handful of copies would be necessary for most meetings.
I object to the fact that the Town of Peru pays Maine Municipal Association over $5,000 a year for, among other services, legal advice and the board does not obtain that advice prior to writing any ordinance.
I object to the limiting of public participation at selectmen’s meetings to twice per month because it is an arbitrary and capricious act, not based on facts or data, and violates almost 300 years of local democratic practices in Peru, ME and it contrary to core democratic principles of public participation. Time samples from videotapes of selectmen’s meetings will show that far more time is spent by selectmen discussing issues that come before them than time spent on questions and discussions of people in the audience.
Given the present terrible state of health of the residents of the Oxford County and the poor economic conditions in Oxford County, we need all the people possible participating in creating, executing, and evaluating solutions so Peru and the rest of the county can achieve their optimal levels of life satisfaction.