WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday voted 6-0, with one abstention, to place a request to recall John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, on the June 12 election ballot.

O’Donnell, who was appointed to the seat just last month, abstained from voting on the recall item.

The city clerk’s office had not received enough petition signatures as of the meeting Tuesday night for the council also to consider placing the mayoral recall on that ballot. The council voted 7-0 to table the item.

The votes followed comments from several residents who support Mayor Nick Isgro, claiming the recall should not occur and those wanting to oust him are responsible for the loss of his job at Skowhegan Savings Bank.

City Clerk Patti Dubois said that as of Tuesday, petitioners had submitted 751 signatures for the mayoral recall item and 676 of those had been verified. Seventy-five signatures were rejected and 181 more signatures are needed by 5 p.m. Wednesday for the council to consider placing the item on the June 12 ballot, she said..

If that number of signatures is not submitted by that deadline, the recall effort is dead for the June vote.


The recall effort was started because of comments Isgro has made on social media, including the tweet “Eat it, Hogg,” in reference to Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivor David Hogg. The Republican mayor, using his personal Twitter account, was responding to a story that Fox News would continue to back host Laura Ingraham after she made disparaging remarks about Hogg. Isgro later deleted the tweet, but screenshots of it traveled far on social media, with the Maine Democratic Party releasing statements condemning the remark, while calling on Isgro to resign as mayor.

After a group of Waterville residents, including former mayor Karen Heck, announced the recall petition effort against Isgro, others started the recall effort against O’Donnell.

The recall efforts come as political tensions have reached a fever pitch in Waterville, prompting raucous council meetings and sharp disagreements over the intent behind council’s recent vote approving a statement of community values, which in part says the city is “a forward thinking, innovative, inclusive, cultural hub in which all people, no matter their race, creed or age, are considered equal and feel welcome and respected.”

Isgro supporter Hank Poirier said Tuesday that people are angry because the council doesn’t listen to them. He said he could not understand how people could hurt a man, Isgro, because of politics. Poirier also lashed out at the Morning Sentinel for writing about the issue.

“I think the Morning Sentinel is extremely culpable in all of this,” he said. “They’re like gasoline in all of this.”

Isgro’s wife, Amanda, said she and others had received information that the liberal advocacy group Maine People’s Alliance was trying to influence people to sign the recall petition and residents also were getting calls from the Maine Democratic Party. She said people on the Democratic party payroll from as far away as Farmington and Harpswell were working on the recall effort. She claimed petitioners were misleading residents, especially elderly residents.


She asked if the city was working with outsiders running the recall petition effort when people were made to think it was a local effort.

“My question to the council: Are you comfortable with this tactic?” Amanda Isgro asked.

“I don’t believe it’s happening,” O’Donnell said, to which Nick Isgro retorted:

“This isn’t time for debate.”

Amanda Isgro then challenged the Morning Sentinel to print “even just one percent” of her comments.

Tom Ferris, who is running as a Democrat for Maine House District 109 in Waterville, disputed claims that Democrats approached Skowhegan Savings Bank about Isgro’s tweeting before Isgro lost his job there. John Witherspoon, president and CEO of Skowhegan Savings Bank, released a statement at the time saying he was “disappointed and dismayed” by Isgro’s tweet and said Isgro had resigned. But the Waterville mayor’s supporters — including Gov. Paul LePage — said Isgro was clearly forced out of a job by the bank and sent letters to Witherspoon admonishing him for the move.


Ferris said it was an untruth that Democrats played a role in Isgro losing his job and it was the bank’s decision. “No Democrat, that I am aware of, in any position of authority — no Democratic person ended up going to the bank,” he said. “It should have been dispelled a long time ago, because it never happened.”

Nick Isgro said a lot of Democrats in the city support him right now. He said further that Scott Ogden, communications director for Maine Democrats, retweeted material that was an attack on his livelihood. Isgro also blamed Lance Dutson, a Republican strategist, for attacking him on Twitter.

“Wasn’t that after the bank gave you an ultimatum?” Ferris asked.

“I’m not going to say if there was an ultimatum or not,” Isgro replied.

A council budget review workshop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss public works, capital improvements and debt service, but the council could schedule a special meeting that night to vote on the recall issue.

Jay Coelho, a Libertarian, organized the Ward 5 recall effort after the council on April 3 appointed O’Donnell to the Ward 5 seat, which had been vacated by Republican Nick Champagne, who resigned to become the city engineer. Coelho, Democrat Julian Payne and Republican George Thiboutot had sought the Ward 5 seat but were not appointed. Payne, a member of the Waterville Board of Education, had packed the council chambers with his supporters, who were angry because he had not been appointed. O’Donnell served in the seat for about 10 years before opting not to seek re-election in 2016.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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