A group of Ogunquit residents has submitted around 900 signatures seeking to recall three selectmen from office in the ongoing fallout from the firing of the town’s fire chief earlier this year.

The residents in the Take Back Ogunquit group behind the recall campaign are trying to remove from office Chairman Charles Waite III and board members Robert Winn and Madeline Mooney, who all voted to uphold Town Manager Patricia Finnigan’s decision to fire Mark O’Brien, who had been fire chief and a longtime member of the fire department.

The recall election would be the first in the small York County town in at least a decade.

Town Clerk Chris Murphy said the recall petitions were returned to her on Thursday, one day ahead of the deadline, and her office has five business days to certify the signatures. The certification process will be followed by a five-day period for legal challenges. If the signatures are deemed valid and there are no legal challenges, the select board would then order an election be held within 45 to 60 days.

The petitions needed to be signed by 215 registered voters, which is 25 percent of the number of voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election. There are 1,216 registered voters in Ogunquit.

Jerry DeHart, a resident and business owner who is helping with the recall campaign, said he submitted to the town clerk’s office roughly 260 signatures on petitions for each of the three targeted select board members. There are also additional signatures on petitions that were available at the town clerk’s office and which will be added to the ones submitted Thursday.


DeHart said Take Back Ogunquit supporters allege the three board members have violated the First and 14th amendments to the Constitution by not reappointing a resident to a town committee, abused their positions with disregard for taxpayer money, mismanaged O’Brien’s termination, poorly managed the request-for-proposals process, allowed a violation of the town charter, are disrespectful of citizen input and are undermining the Planning Board with statements during select board meetings. He said the push for recall is not about getting Finnigan removed from her position.

“They try to deflect and say this is somehow about the town manager,” DeHart said. “This is absolutely about these three select board members.”

Waite, who was elected to the board in 2017 and previously served as a selectman from 2003-06, said the reasons for his removal stated on the recall positions are “not true.” The petition accuses Waite of repeatedly violating the select board’s code of ethics, engaging in conduct unbecoming a select board member and abuse of the office of selectman, but does not provide specific examples.

“These are serious allegations,” he said. “The petition lacks specific example. These are very ambiguous reasons and they don’t have a lot of substance for me to comment on.”

Waite said he finds the allegation that he abused is office “mind-blowing” and defended his efforts as an elected official to bring civility and transparency to the board. “I have conducted myself responsibly and ethically in everything I’ve done as a member of the board,” Waite said Friday in a phone interview. “People in the community are not always going to agree with members of the select board, which is democracy.”

Mooney said in a statement that “false claims of ethics violations were made against the three targeted select board members who operate in an open, purposeful and respectful manner as can be viewed at any public meeting.”

“As a member of the select board, I have worked with our Town Manager Pat Finnigan for more than a year, and she makes her own decisions based on a deliberative process of fact finding and the best interests of the town, not an individual. She has demonstrated her intelligence, knowledge of all things municipal, progressive programs to manage our long neglected town assets and support of our town employees,” Mooney said. “The beautiful town of Ogunquit has moved forward from recent past negativity including theft, suspicious procurement practices, investigations and lawsuits. Ogunquit citizens are well informed on important topics and traditionally come out to vote in large numbers, so I believe they will choose to stay the course with our current better and more transparent government.”

Winn did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Since being fired in September, O’Brien has filed a court complaint seeking to appeal his termination and have him reinstated to his position. In the complaint, O’Brien said he was fired without progressive discipline.

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