WATERVILLE — Former Mayor Dana Sennett has complained to the city that Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, moved out of his ward and therefore should not remain a city councilor.

Thomas maintains he is only temporarily staying out of his ward.

Thomas wrote to councilors in an email dated March 1 that he hopes to find something permanent by April 1.

“I will let you know when the situation is resolved one way or the other,” he wrote.

Thomas wouldn’t comment when contacted Monday.

Sennett, who formerly represented Ward 4 as a councilor and council chairman and is a Morning Sentinel advertising representative, said he complained to City Clerk Patti Dubois about the situation last week.

“My concern is the public should be aware of the fact that the individual representing the ward isn’t living in the ward anymore,” Sennett said. “And that the administration should bring this to the public’s attention so they’re aware of it before a decision is made.”

Dubois said Monday that after Sennett brought the issue to her attention, she contacted Thomas to see if there was any merit to it.

“Erik indicated he temporarily relocated out of his ward and he was staying at a friend’s place and was hoping to relocate within the next month, back to his ward,” Dubois said.

After she spoke with Thomas, he sent an email to councilors, notifying them of his situation, she said.

The city charter is not explicit regarding exactly when a councilor should no longer be allowed to serve.

The charter stipulates a council office shall be deemed vacant under several situations, including when a councilor “re-establishes primary residency outside of the ward from which he is elected.”

The City Council makes the ultimate decision on the status of a councilor, according to City Solicitor William A. Lee.

Lee said Monday that if the council decides Thomas’ absence from the ward is temporary, it can choose to do nothing, as it is the council that decides the qualifications of its own members.

The term “primary residence” is key in this instance, according to Lee.

It is OK, for instance, if councilors stay at seasonal camps in the summertime, as long as they still have primary residences in their wards in the city.

In Thomas’ case “the question is, where’s the primary residence?” Lee said.

Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, said he was satisfied with Thomas’ explanation and promise to have the issue of his residency resolved by April 1.

“If it goes longer than that, we need to do something,” Stubbert said. “Erik’s doing a good job. He’s contributing to the council and I’d hate to see him leave.”

Meanwhile, Sennett said people in his ward three weeks ago complained to him about Thomas.

He said his reason for filing a complaint is not that he wants to be a council member again.

“I have no intention of going back into that seat,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

 

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