WATERVILLE — The Waterville Education Association is encouraging members to support the recall of Mayor Nick Isgro, saying in a letter that the mayor has brought an “unfortunate blemish” upon the city with his recent tweet attacking a Florida school shooting survivor and the tone he has set for the community.

“We do not take this position lightly, but we are very concerned about the tone our mayor has established as a leader for our city and the unfortunate blemish he has brought upon us,” reads the letter dated May 30 and sent to the 150 union members in the area. “His hateful comments on social media have not only brought our city unfortunate attention and bad publicity, but have created a divisive environment that our citizens do not deserve.”

Isgro, a second term Republican, is the subject of a recall election scheduled for June 12. The recall was initiated after backlash over the mayor’s tweet telling Parkland, Florida school shooting survivor David Hogg to “Eat it, Hogg!”

The post, which came in response to a news article about Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham losing sponsorships for disparaging comments she made about Hogg, was deleted by Isgro after criticisms began to surface, but it also brought attention to past social media posts he made attacking the pope, making a vulgar reference to anti-sexual harassment legislation and expressing anti-immigrant sentiments.

“Everyone knows this is not about a promptly-deleted comment on social media made in opposition to someone’s livelihood being attacked,” Isgro said in an email responding to questions about the union’s stance.

“This interest group that has endorsed my opponents in the past is trying to protect a big, big budget increase they are seeking, which represents 1/3 of the massive 13 percent tax increase that the city council will be asking working families and seniors to dig deep for.”

Isgro has framed the recall as being about the city budget and has accused city councilors of working behind the scenes on a 13 percent tax increase.

Although initial versions of the city and school budget did call for such an increase, the school board has voted to tweak its budget and the city has also come up with a list of reductions that officials hope will bring the tax increase down from three mills to two.

City councilors are scheduled to take a first vote on the budget Tuesday and could vote to lower or increase the amount of the budget at that time.

“Just like the city council and their associated forces, this local chapter of a national lobbyist group is trying to avoid my promised budget veto by supporting divisive attempts to remove me from office — attempts that are financed by political groups out of Augusta,” Isgro said. “We should be working together to make sure spending priorities for our schools are addressed, not trying to make enemies and get people fired.”

Heather Duquette, vice president of the union, said their support of the recall is unrelated to the budget.

“It’s strictly related to his tweet and the behavior being displayed in response to it,” she said.

The letter says educators in Waterville Public Schools work hard every day to provide the best educational opportunities to all students, regardless of their backgrounds.

“Needless to say, we do not appreciate when a leader in our city such as Nick Isgro makes inappropriate and hateful comments against members of our community,” the letter said. “These comments reverberate through our schools creating a negative atmosphere, empower bullying and degrade respect for all human beings that we try to instill in our students.”

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Two school board members, Chairwoman Sara Sylvester and Joan Phillips-Sandy, hesitated to comment on the letter when contacted Friday.

“Whatever the voters vote for, I’m for,” Sylvester said. “I don’t really want to take a side. Whatever the city does and whatever voters want we will follow. As chair of the board I don’t think it’s right for me to say one way or another. I think I need to stay neutral and follow what the voters want.”

Phillips-Sandy also said the district is in the midst of negotiations with the union and thus she was not sure if it would be appropriate to comment on union business.

However, Julian Payne, a member of the school board who is also an Isgro supporter, said he was appalled to receive the letter in the mail Friday.

“I was shocked that such politically divisive material would be circulated around the time of graduation when things should be focused on the positive,” Payne said. “It was very disconcerting to me that the Waterville Education Association is getting involved in city politics, especially when the city has been working so hard on the budget.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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