WATERVILLE — A second effort is underway to remove a city official from office after papers were taken out Tuesday to start a recall petition for Ward 5 Councilor John O’Donnell just one week after he was appointed to the seat temporarily.

Jay Coelho, who was one of four candidates seeking the vacant Ward 5 seat, is leading the way and filed the paperwork Tuesday to recall O’Donnell, a Democrat.

Coelho, a Libertarian, said in an interview that he felt councilors didn’t listen to the will of residents when they voted to appoint O’Donnell, a veteran of the council and former chairman, despite a council chamber that was packed with supporters for a third candidate, Julian Payne.

But the effort comes amid heightened political tensions in Waterville. Coelho also said he was influenced by a recent movement to recall Republican Mayor Nick Isgro from office after backlash over his social media persona and a tweet criticizing the survivor of a Florida school shooting.

Isgro would not answer questions about his social media after a city budget meeting Tuesday night and has given no indication he plans to resign.

Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro Staff file photo by Michael G. Seamans

“This is about the people of Waterville,” he said Tuesday night after the meeting. “We have a non-respondent, elitist majority on the City Council and well-monied groups like the Maine People’s Alliance who aren’t in Waterville and their friends like Karen Heck (behind this). If you look at the reality of it, the majority of people in Waterville support me and I’ve always had their back. I’m going to continue to have their back.”

Meanwhile, Coelho said he knew that residents in his ward “vehemently did not want John O’Donnell” in the council seat.

“I had to go by what I heard and when this opportunity came up, I saw what they did to Nick and I was like, ‘Oh, there’s a neat little process,’ and it snowballed from there,” Coelho said.

The city charter states that three residents must file an affidavit with the city clerk in order to initiate the recall process. Also on the affidavit filed Tuesday are residents Desiree Sirois and Benjamin Mathieu.

They will need 91 signatures by May 2 in order to hold a recall election.

O’Donnell said he was surprised Tuesday to learn of the recall effort.

“I guess he thought, ‘If they can do it, so can we,'” O’Donnell said. “I’m just surprised. If they recall me we can have an election in June otherwise it wouldn’t be until November, I guess.”

Coelho received one vote to O’Donnell’s five when councilors voted on the appointment last week. The seat, which formerly was held by Nick Champagne, was vacated when Champagne accepted a job as the city engineer.

Payne also received one vote. A fourth candidate, George Thiboutot, received no votes.

“I have no issues with John,” Coelho said. “I’m sure he’s a good guy but he stated he wanted to be home on Tuesdays watching the news. I’m doing it because people in my neighborhood and in the ward said they felt like they weren’t being represented.”

The tense meeting last week included some residents slamming city councilors for the appointment after they chose O’Donnell, despite Payne packing the council chambers with his supporters and his supporters yelling “Sham!” as they left the meeting.

“I’ve heard from residents in my ward that they’re disgusted with the process that happened at that council meeting,” Payne said. “One resident told me they felt so unclean they had to go home and take a shower afterwards. So there’s been a big backlash. I found it disconcerting that (Councilors Steve Soule and Nathaniel White) mentioned that if people came to support a certain candidate they would listen to the people, and that didn’t happen.”

Payne said he isn’t interested in the seat if a new election is held as he and his family don’t plan on staying in Waterville beyond November, when the term of the appointed seat expires.

Payne said he urges his supporters to give their vote to Coelho if the recall is successful, while Coelho said he is interested in the seat but more importantly he wants Ward 5 voters to feel they are being heard.

“It doesn’t matter if I get elected,” he said. “What matters is the people of Ward 5 getting a voice. Somebody has to fight for them, because the council didn’t.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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