WATERVILLE — A petition to recall recently appointed Ward 5 Councilor John O’Donnell has been submitted and verified, according to a city clerk, and now it awaits a vote from the City Council to determine whether the recall will appear on the June ballot.

The necessary number of signatures were gathered by Ward 5 resident Jay Coelho after O’Donnell’s temporary appointment, which Coelho has characterized as a decision the council made without considering the will of the residents who packed the council chamber for another candidate, Julian Payne, on the night of the vote.

Coelho, a Libertarian, was one of the four candidates who sought to fill the vacancy left by Nick Champagne when he accepted a job as the city engineer.

“The only thing I care about is that Ward 5 get a choice,” Coelho said Friday. “They tried to speak once and they weren’t listened to.”

Coelho has denied that the recall of O’Donnell is a way to counter the campaign to recall Republican Mayor Nick Isgro because of his social media persona and a tweet telling a survivor of a Florida school shooting to “eat it,” but Coelho did say in an interview on April 10, after he took out the recall papers, that he was influenced by that effort.

Those involved with the movement to remove Isgro from office could not be reached Friday afternoon to answer questions about their progress thus far. Their recall petition will need signatures from at least 15 percent of the number of residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election, or 857 signatures, by Wednesday in order to qualify for a recall vote in June.


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

Coelho, who received one vote to O’Donnell’s four when councilors voted April 3 on the appointment, said he plans to run in November for the seat, but it depends on what’s going on in his life at that point.

In an interview Friday after learning that the papers had been submitted, O’Donnell said, “I encourage the Ward 5 residents to come out and vote one way or the other.”

He said he wasn’t surprised that Coelho got enough signatures, because of the low threshold needed.

O’Donnell had served on the council for 10 years before deciding not to seek re-election in 2016. He stepped up as a candidate for the Ward 5 vacancy because he didn’t see any strong Democratic candidates vying for the job.

His one concern about being recalled would be the potential vacancy it would leave on the council until the November election.


Coelho said leaving the seat vacant for five months was not a concern because it would be the residents’ choice in June whether they have representation.

“The seat is essentially empty now, because it’s not who they want to represent them,” he said, adding if the voters choose to keep O’Donnell in the seat, that would be a fine outcome as well.

City Manager Mike Roy said the council could decide to leave the seat empty if O’Donnell is recalled, but the panel also could make an appointment to fill the seat.

Coelho said he does not have a problem with O’Donnell, but he does have a problem with the process by which O’Donnell was appointed. Coelho and fellow candidate Julian Payne, who is also a school board member, have taken issue with the council appointing O’Donnell despite the number of supporters Payne had in the chamber during the vote.

Payne, who received one vote to fill the vacancy, said the council chose to ignore the residents and to appoint O’Donnell.

“This recall gives the residents voice at the ballot box in June to recall O’Donnell if Ward 5 wishes,” he said.


Payne said he is no longer interested in the seat but would back Coelho if he chooses to run.

The council is expected to vote at its meeting Tuesday evening on whether the recall will be on the June 12 ballot.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239


Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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