WATERVILLE — Mayor Nick Isgro is encouraging voters to think about their taxes when they cast votes in a recall election June 12, telling people in a Facebook post Thursday to “Vote NO to 13% tax hikes.”

The post includes a picture of the election ballot with the question, “Should Nicholas S. Isgro be recalled?” and the mayor’s message written on top of the ballot.

The post comes as Isgro has criticized those involved in the recall, saying it’s a distraction from the good work being done in the city and city business.

But organizers of the recall say the mayor is also trying to mislead and distract by making the recall about the tax issue.

“We’ve been crystal clear about our intentions from the beginning,” said Hilary Koch, one of three residents who initiated the recall effort. “Taxes have never been a part of it. What the recall began as and continues to be about is an insistence that the mayor needs to be a good ambassador for Waterville and needs to be accountable for his statements and respond to them.”

Isgro did not respond to a phone call seeking comment Thursday.

The recall follows a tweet made on his personal Twitter account in which the mayor told the survivor of a Florida school shooting to “Eat it” and subsequent controversy over other posts Isgro has made on social media.

His recent post on his mayoral Facebook page follows a strategy some politicians use when they are attacked and want to deflect attention from the root of the attack, according to James Cook, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Maine at Augusta.

“It sounds like the argument he’s making is that people behind the recall want him out of office because they want a new mayor with different policies and they have a secret or not-so-secret agenda of wanting to change the policies in Waterville having to do with taxation,” Cook said.

In another example, President Bill Clinton employed a similar strategy in 1998 in responding to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Cook said.

“He used the argument, ‘People aren’t really upset about Monica Lewinsky, they’re trying to get me out of office so they can hurt poor people and change the policies.’ It sounds like the mayor may be engaging in a similar strategy, saying, ‘The people attacking me aren’t really upset about the tweet, they want to change who is in office so they can change the tax policy,'” he said.

Koch said the recall is not about taxes and Isgro’s post is an attempt to intimidate voters.

It follows allegations by the mayor last week that some members of the City Council “have been quietly crafting a budget proposal to increase property taxes by a whopping 13 percent.”

City officials said Isgro’s statement was false — that no one on the council is working behind residents’ backs on a tax increase and that the process has been open and transparent.

They’ve also said that while the city is facing a revenue shortfall that currently lends itself to a tax increase, it’s too early in the budget process to know for sure what that number will be.

“No way would it be popular for the council to agree to a 13 percent tax increase,” said Jim Chiddix, another resident involved in the recall. “This is just propaganda. Based on what the city manager has said, we’re not nearly at the point where we can talk about what a budget will look like. There are a lot of departments the council is still looking at.”

Meanwhile, Isgro has said those involved with the recall misled voters in order to gather signatures on the petition to recall him.

In one Facebook post, Isgro wrote that a life-long resident reached out to him “to report yet another attempt by out-of-town signature gatherers to deceive, intimidate and harass you, the people of Waterville.”

“They told him that signing the petition would allow him to be able to vote for me in an upcoming recall vote. Very, very deceitful,” Isgro wrote.

In another post, he said signature gatherers approached an elderly man and told him the petition was a ballot referendum but did not mention the recall effort.

“Fortunately, a concerned neighbor witnessed this and went over to let him know what he actually signed,” Isgro wrote. “When the signature gatherers returned, he asked for his name to be removed from the petition.”

More than 30 people circulated the petition, gathering 887 verified signatures.

“All I can do is speak to my own involvement, and I can guarantee you I never intimidated or misled people about why they should sign the petition,” Koch said. “I think I was clear why I was involved and why I felt it was important to have this conversation. He’s chosen not to engage in the conversation. He has refused to answer your questions, and he has refused to answer questions from citizens concerning statements he’s made.”

Cook, the sociology professor, said when it comes to trying to figure out the true intentions of either the recall team or the mayor, it’s impossible to know.

“You can’t read anyone’s thoughts, but you can certainly read their actions,” Cook said. “Instead of focusing on one secret thing they’re thinking, why not look at the pattern of what they’ve done in the past? That’s usually a good predictor of what they’ll do in the future.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

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Twitter: @rachel_ohm