WATERVILLE — City officials are hopeful Waterville can get back to business following the defeat of an effort to recall Mayor Nick Isgro from office, but the mayor on Wednesday called for an apology from those involved in the recall and asked they reimburse the city for election costs.

“To those who started this recall process — including 4 city councilors — who chose to try to remove me instead of work with me, who sowed division instead of cooperation, who courted outside influence, who put partisan agendas and political career aspirations ahead of serving the public good … you owe an apology to the People of Our City,” Isgro said Wednesday in a Facebook post. He apparently was referring to four councilors who signed the petition to put the recall question on the election ballot: John O’Donnell, Winifred Tate, Lauren Lessing and Jackie Dupont.

“I am sure the city clerk could provide you with an estimate on the cost of this unnecessary division and distraction. It would be a nice gesture if you reimbursed the city for this so we don’t have to add it to the tax bills. This would go a long way towards moving forward together and healing the division.”

The post came a day after Isgro defeated an effort to recall him from office that was started after he sent a tweet telling the survivor of a Florida school shooting to “Eat it.”

The recall was rejected by a 91-vote margin, 1,563 no to 1,472 yes, which is 51 percent to 49 percent.

Isgro has not responded to requests for comment or spoken publicly about the recall since the results were announced.


When a reporter stopped by his house Wednesday afternoon, the mayor refused to answer questions and said, “You can get the same information the public gets.”

Later in the day, Isgro wrote a second Facebook post in which he criticized the reporter.

“In light of this confrontation, I will definitely be continuing my new policy of responding to the media by referring them to public statements here on my Mayor page,” Isgro wrote. “And when they ask me a question, I will continue to respond here for all to see. There is no reason why they should hear anything from me before you do.”

In the first Facebook post, the mayor talked about a promise to veto any tax increase over 3 percent, but he doesn’t include specifics on how he would bring down a budget that currently includes an 8 percent tax increase.

He would not answer a question about the budget increase and what he plans to cut, when asked Wednesday.

Residents involved in the recall effort, including those who started the effort and city councilors who were in support, said they accepted the results but think the city remains divided.


“I continue to believe real leaders welcome difficult questions and criticism, and I want our mayor to lead,” said Hilary Koch, a leader of the recall movement.

“If he’s committed to trying to bring people together, I hope he understands that while there are people who voted to keep him in office, there are people who have serious concerns and it’s more than a few people. It’s up to him to guide us all in a way to work together.”

The city is facing potentially heated discussions on the city budget set to take place next week between councilors and Isgro, who again on Wednesday blamed them for playing a role in the recall and vowed to veto the budget as they’ve approved it.

City Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, said prior to Isgro’s post Facebook on Wednesday he was hopeful the council could work with the mayor, and if he vetoes the budget, they would look over any changes he suggests.

“I think as a city, regardless of your party, we need to work together and we need to start now,” Soule said. “I hope people understand we can’t change the past and it’s time to move ahead.”

Later in the day, Soule commented on Isgro’s Facebook post with a question about whether the city also should be reimbursed for a recall election held about Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, as Isgro suggested those involved in the mayoral recall do. The O’Donnell recall, also defeated Tuesday, was started by Jay Coelho, a supporter of Isgro’s.


Soule could not be reached for comment later Wednesday.

The combined cost of the recalls was about $3,000, according to City Clerk Patti Dubois.

Other councilors Wednesday echoed Soule’s comments in saying they were relieved the recall was over, but felt there was work to do to unify the city. Only Councilor Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, did not respond to a request for comment. Only O’Donnell and Councilor Lauren Lessing, D-Ward 3, could be reached for comment after Isgro’s post was made around 3 p.m.

“I’m relieved it’s over,” said Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4. “That’s the biggest thing. I think the city needs to get back to business as usual. The recall was a huge distraction for the city and residents.”

Mayhew said he plans to support the proposed $41.9 million combined city and school budget, which is up for a second vote after councilors unanimously approved it last week.

The budget calls for an 8 percent tax increase, a number almost half of the 13 percent figure originally included in City Manager Mike Roy’s first budget proposal.


Before budget numbers were finalized, Isgro accused the council of working behind residents’ backs on a tax increase and getting behind the recall to distract from the budget discussion. In the weeks leading up to the recall, he framed the vote as being about tax increases and promised to veto any budget proposal that calls for a more than 3 percent increase.

City officials have said the budget is already lean and they’re already below the self-imposed rule of maintaining a 12 percent surplus.

“Whether that surplus balance should be 8 or 10 or 12 percent, that’s something that’s subject to argument; but it’s not something I would recommend,” Roy said.

He also said the mayor will have to decide Tuesday if he wants to veto the budget and thus enter into an extended budget review process.

“We’ve been doing this since early March and there have been a lot of meetings with different department heads,” Roy said. “I don’t think there’s much new to be learned.”

O’Donnell, who supported the recall of Isgro, was taken aback when told of Isgro’s Facebook post.


“I think that’s ludicrous,” he said. “I’m not happy with the way things turned out, but Nick is still our mayor and we will work with him.”

“The next question is, ‘When is the veto coming down?’ since he’s already promised a veto,” O’Donnell said. “He’s made that promise and therefore he has to follow through. There are some who would say, ‘Just let us know, Nick, how we can get down to that 3 percent.’ I would challenge him to do that.”

Other councilors Wednesday also said they were looking to the mayor for leadership — both on the budget and in bringing a divided city together.

“The council is eager to hear how he will bring the budget down to a 3 percent tax increase,” said Councilor Jackie Dupont, D-Ward 7, in an email. “The recall, as I’ve stated before, is our city’s democratic process to voice dissent. One thousand four hundred seventy-two people who are also our neighbors, friends, and colleagues should not be dismissed. Those residents also voiced their needs, and I hope our leadership will represent them, as well, as we move forward.”

Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, said the close margin in the recall indicates the city is “profoundly divided,” and she is hoping leadership can do more work to ensure all residents feel welcome and represented.

“The mayor has promised to veto the budget that all councilors worked together to produce and passed unanimously,” Tate said in an email. “Because of declining revenues, the city faces a critical budget shortfall, and reducing the proposed budget will require massive cuts in city programs and personnel. The mayor has not provided any guidance to the council on how to proceed, and he should offer his plan for specific cuts as soon as possible.”


Lessing, who also responded by email, declined to comment on Isgro’s Facebook post but said the recall has shown “how deeply (and almost evenly) divided” the city is.

“We desperately need leadership that will bring us together rather than deepening these divisions,” she said. “The Mayor’s response to the budget that the city council unanimously approved last week — a budget he has promised to veto — will be a test of whether he’s up to this task. I am still waiting to see his plan for keeping budget increases under 3 percent. If he can’t produce a viable alternative, then opposing the city council’s budget will simply sow more fear and division in Waterville.”

Isgro didn’t offer any specifics in his Facebook post Wednesday, but he suggested that the onus is on city officials — not him — to present an alternative budget and reaffirmed his promise to “veto any tax increase over 3%.”

“This certainly includes the gigantic tax hike that the city council unanimously supports,” Isgro wrote. “But it shouldn’t have to come to this. The city council and city manager should be able to work together while considering our voices, so we can keep a Waterville that works for all Watervillians. They can strike a balance that meets critical city needs and also doesn’t price longtime residents out of their homes.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368


Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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