NORRIDGEWOCK — There appears to be no Maine precedent for the case of Charlotte Curtis, who was elected selectman but has not yet been able to serve because of unfinished business as a former town treasurer.

Waterville attorney William A. Lee said Thursday he continues to examine the matter involving former treasurer Curtis and that he hopes to present options to selectmen in the coming days.

In addition to evaluating how to resolve the issue of Curtis being elected selectman March 5, he will also look into what to do about her also being elected to the board of tax assessors and the budget committee.

Lee said there appears to be no definitions of the wording contained in the statute pertinent to Curtis’ matter, nor a statement of what the Maine Legislature intended to accomplish when the law originally passed.

Because of her former treasurer position, Curtis continues to remain responsible for collecting money owed on residents’ unpaid sewer bills, but Maine law states treasurers can’t simultaneously serve as municipal officers.

“While the statute on its face appears to prohibit her from serving, that is in opposition to one of the fundamental principles of our legal system — that everyone’s vote counts. There is no case law interpreting this statute, and some time is necessary to properly investigate and analyze the issue,” Lee wrote in an email to the town.

Curtis has not yet been sworn in to any of her elected positions. An effort to reach her by phone on Thursday was unsuccessful.

Ron Frederick, chairman of the board, said selectmen don’t know yet whether there will be different rules surrounding how to handle each position to which Curtis was elected.

“We’re waiting for legal advice. I don’t know what happens next,” he said.

They may discuss the issue at their next meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Town Office.

“I think it’s important that the town take the time necessary to fully analyze and have all the information it needs to consider what it’s going to do. I’m hoping I can make a suggestion, at least, that will be a practical solution,” Lee said.

He also addressed the selectmen’s timeframe to make a decision about Curtis. Under Maine law, a vacancy in an elected office occurs 10 days after selectmen make a written demand. If the 10-day period passes and the involved person doesn’t qualify for the office, the selectmen would call a town meeting to elect someone else.

Norridgewock selectmen have not yet made the required written demand. They should make it once they understand their options, Lee said.

“They should be given time to make sure they fully understand the situation, but obviously since somebody has been elected and has not taken the position, you want it to be resolved as expeditiously as possible,” he said.

As treasurer, Curtis did not record liens on some unpaid sewer accounts because she said she didn’t want people’s homes to be foreclosed on because of a sewer bill.

The approximately $10,000 in unpaid bills that are more than a year old are considered unfinished business with the town because Curtis remains responsible for seeing that they are collected until selectmen can commit the duties to another treasurer.

The acting treasurer has said he will not take on the accounts that are more than a year old. That’s because after a year the treasurer is legally no longer able to place a lien on them to force payment.

Curtis has submitted her official resignation from the treasurer position to selectmen, in addition to a certificate of settlement listing the sewer charges overdue. But selectmen haven’t officially accepted the documents yet because they have no treasurer to commit the charges to.

In a separate issue, Town Manager Michelle Flewelling fired Curtis from her 40-hour-per-week position of office clerk on Jan. 30 for making secret audio recordings of conversations at the front desk. The position is different from the elected town clerk position, and the treasurer position, Curtis held until March 5 elections. She did not seek re-election to those posts.

According to Curtis’ termination letter, she had been told in April 2010 that a personal audio recording device was not allowed because of potential confidentiality violations, as confidential conversations can arise at the front counter. On Jan. 5, she acknowledged verbally and in writing that she had since used a tape recorder.

Curtis filed a union grievance after being fired. Prior to being fired, she filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission alleging age discrimination by Flewelling. Both complaints are still pending.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

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