WATERVILLE — Anger flared Tuesday night at the City Council meeting as those wanting to recall Mayor Nick Isgro said he is not fit to be mayor because he lied about the budget process and uses social media to attack and intimidate people and denigrate them on the basis of skin color, gender, sexuality and religion.

Isgro supporters slammed his opponents and said the Morning Sentinel prints untruths that are fanning the flames of the controversy. One Isgro advocate, Norton Webber, claimed the newspaper is dying and he would not allow its reporters in the council chamber.

“I wouldn’t even let them come in,” he said, to which Isgro laughed and replied, “Free speech, right?”

Isgro faces a recall vote June 12. The recall effort started when he tweeted “Eat it, Hogg,” to Florida school shooting survivor David Hogg.

Resident Rien Finch stood before a packed council chamber Tuesday night to say Isgro deliberately misrepresented the budget process Saturday as a way to fuel conspiracy theories when he posted a message on Facebook saying city councilors were working behind the scenes to craft a budget that represents a 13 percent increase and want him recalled so he cannot veto the budget vote.

City Manager Michael Roy and Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, made a statement to the Morning Sentinel on Monday that said Isgro’s statement was false — that the budget process is still in the workshop phase and no numbers have been decided.

Roy explained that his own proposed budget calls for a 13 percent increase, but typically his budget is larger than what the council approves and the budget process is not even completed yet. Finch directed his anger Tuesday toward Isgro.

“Instead of offering leadership, the mayor tweets about ‘cucked shit’ and attacks the pope and Muslims and Colby and city councilors,” Finch said Tuesday before the council. “Instead of offering leadership, the mayor posts the Facebook profiles of petition signature collectors, like a child on the brink of losing a board game who flips the table and taunts, ‘You didn’t really win.’ Instead of offering leadership, the mayor literally runs from questions, because accountability is apparently for suckers.”

But Isgro supporter Spence Connolly said councilors want to oust him because they plan to increase taxes and know he would veto such a vote. People attacked the mayor and his livelihood and he lost his job, according to Connolly.

“We cost somebody their livelihood because we don’t like their politics,” he said.

The news media are complicit in the situation, and Isgro supporters are portrayed as bullies and intimidating, according to Connolly.

Hank Poirier concurred.

“The press, the aristocracy, have anointed themselves as gasoline and oxygen of this fire,” Poirier said.

He said the media conspired to say Hogg was a Florida school shooting survivor, “immediately putting a defensive shield around this kid.”

“He’s got the bully pulpit,” he said of Hogg.

Instead of talking about how to make schools safe, such as locking them down, Hogg smeared “every military person” and the National Rifle Association, according to Poirier. Hogg had a perfect opportunity to work on the issue of school safety but “instead, he went on a political tirade,” Poirier said. Isgro, he said, has the right to say whatever he wants to say.

He then attacked the news media for not reporting former Mayor Karen Heck did not recite the Pledge of Allegiance at council meetings.

“I never saw a story about the prior mayor never saying the Pledge of Allegiance. They’re picking and choosing,” Poirier said.

Hilary Koch, one of the people who started the mayoral recall effort, said the First Amendment allows freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and the right to petition.

“Yes, freedom of speech allows you to act like a bully and verbally assault a child,” Koch said, referring to Isgro’s tweet to Hogg. “You are free to be intimidating and then … denigrate others on the basis of the color of their skin, gender, sexuality, religion or nationality.”

She said people are free to spread lies and conspiracy theories, and newspapers report the lies, which are then believed because they’re in print. She went on to say that freedom of speech is an American right, but with it comes responsibility and honesty and civility are unwritten hallmarks of the First Amendment. People expect leaders to model appropriate behavior, answer questions, apologize when they make mistakes and tell the truth.

“I want a mayor who I can trust,” she said. “Mayor Isgro is no longer that mayor.”

Meanwhile, Webber said he doesn’t particularly care if discussions are held behind closed doors; he is just concerned about a 13 percent property tax increase.

“It’s looking like $400 more a year for us, and we’re on Social Security and living the dream,” he said.

As he has in past meetings, he criticized the Morning Sentinel for its reporting and said he knows “the paper’s dying. My wife might be the last one to get it.”

He said that maybe the Sentinel would work with the council and mayor and people, and then claimed the newspaper berated a Southern Baptist pastor in a recent edition.

“Tore him right down,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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