Litchfield voters soon could be able to petition for the recall of elected officials, depending on the outcome of two votes scheduled for Tuesday evening.

Two proposed ordinances will be considered at a special town meeting, both of which would allow citizens who have collected enough signatures to call for the removal of an elected municipal officer and trigger a townwide recall vote.

The town meeting is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at Libby-Tozier School, after a regularly scheduled meeting of the Select Board at 6:30 p.m.

One of the proposed ordinances is the direct result of a citizen-led petition that received 257 signatures and was presented to selectmen Aug. 22. The other was brought forward later by selectmen and is similar to the original proposal, but with a few additions that clarify which officials would be subject to recall and how often recall votes can be requested, among other details.

It was not immediately clear this week which citizens led the petition drive for the proposed recall ordinance. Town employees and local officials said they did not know who circulated the petition, and a copy of the petition could not be obtained Friday because the Town Office was closed.

Eric Seaman, a resident who presented the petition to selectmen, declined to identify the petition’s authors, saying, “They’re people that don’t like the limelight.”

Seaman also doesn’t like the limelight, he said, but he supports the intent of the proposed ordinance and offered to present it because of his own experience drafting ordinances and speaking publicly as a member the Planning Board.

Asked why he supports the proposal, Seaman said some residents have grievances about how the town is being run and are seeking more accountability from elected officials. Litchfield does not have rules for recalling officials for reasons other than criminal activity, Seaman said.

“I think the political climate in this time, and the town management, the running of the town, has brought a lot of questions,” Seaman said. “This gives people the power to judge whether elected town officials are doing a good job or not; and if not, this gives them an avenue where they can question what they can do and hold a recall vote. At the present time, that can’t be done.”

Seaman wouldn’t go into detail about his own grievances with town management.

All three of the town’s selectmen — Chairman Mark Russell, George Thomson and Timothy LaChapelle — were at the Aug. 22 meeting where Seaman presented the petition, which surpassed the required number of signatures to be considered: 172, or 10 percent of the number of voters who turned out for the last gubernatorial election.

At the time, Seaman also suggested that selectmen get a legal opinion about the proposed ordinance, according to minutes of the meeting.

They did, and on Sept. 8, the selectmen held a special workshop on the proposed ordinance that was attended by just Russell and Thompson. LaChapelle was absent, according to minutes from the meeting.

Under both proposals, the number of signatures needed to trigger a recall vote would be 10 percent of the number of voters who turned out for the last gubernatorial election. Within 10 days of receiving it, the town clerk would have to certify the signatures, determine the validity of the petition and present it to the selectmen. The selectmen then would schedule a secret-ballot recall vote to be held in the next two months or at the same time as an upcoming municipal election. The official would be recalled if a majority of voters supported it.

On Sept. 8, Russell and Thompson drafted their own ordinance proposal that contained much of the same language as what had been presented to them by Seaman, but with a few additions, including that a recall vote could only be held for officials who had been in office for at least three months and that if the recall were unsuccessful, petitioners would have to wait at least six months before submitting another proposal.

They made those changes to correct several “deficiencies” in the original proposal, Russell said this week. When doing so, Russell said, he and Thompson considered input from residents who wanted to ensure they could petition for the recall of someone currently in office.

A public hearing about the proposed ordinance was held Sept. 26 and attended by about 60 people, Russell said.

Russell said he didn’t know who led the original petition drive. Asked if he thought the petition was created for the purpose of ousting a current official, he continued, “I don’t know, other than saying that I suspect it does, but I don’t know for sure.”

Russell declined to comment about which officials the petitioners might want to remove.

Neither of the other two selectmen could be reached this week. Two phone numbers available at the Town Office for Thomson were not working, and LaChapelle did not respond to voicemail messages.

At the town meeting on Tuesday, voters will be able to consider both versions of the recall ordinance, Russell said. Because it will be an open meeting, attendees will decide what type of vote is needed.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.