OGUNQUIT — The Ogunquit Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night officially received the petitions that seek to oust three of the board’s five members from office.

The board voted unanimously with little discussion to wait until Feb. 5 to set a date for a recall election. The recall election, which will be held in late March or early April, would be the first for the small York County town and follows several months of contentious debate and accusations.

The group Take Back Ogunquit launched the effort in October to recall Chairman Charles “Bunky” Waite III and board members Madeline Mooney and Robert Winn, who all had voted in to uphold the town manager’s termination of the fire chief. The group later released a detailed list of complaints about the board members that accused them of a number of issues, including abusing their positions by opposing a new version of the town’s Comprehensive Plan and mismanaging the termination of Fire Chief Mark O’Brien.

Mooney and Waite strongly dispute those accusations from Take Back Ogunquit and say they have been working to bring more transparency to town business and uphold the Select Board’s Code of Ethics. Winn has not responded to interview requests.

“As difficult as it is sometimes to deal with the mis-truths and instability, I’m determined to see the process through,” Mooney said. “The Select Board members have done nothing wrong.”

The Ogunquit Resident Alliance, an independent organization of voters and taxpayers, last week released a long rebuttal to the Take Back Ogunquit accusations that outlined how and why the board members had handled a number of issues.

Take Back Ogunquit collected nearly 300 signatures on a petition to recall Waite, Mooney and Winn, but the alliance challenged the residency or validity of the signatures of nearly two dozen people who had signed the petitions. The town clerk upheld the group’s challenge on several signatures, but determined that the petitions contained enough signatures to forward the process to the Select Board.

Town Clerk Chris Murphy determined the petitions contained 257 valid signatures to recall Mooney, 259 signatures to recall Waite and 253 signatures to recall Winn. Take Back Ogunquit was required to submit 215 signatures for each select board member it seeks to recall. The town charter requires the Select Board to schedule a recall election within 10 days of receiving the certified petitions from Murphy. The election then must be held within 45 to 60 days.

While board members agreed to wait to set the date of the recall election, they were split 3-2 on whether to hire an independent attorney to answer board questions about the recall process and potential legal challenges. Board members John Daley and Rick Dolliver voted against hiring an attorney because no legal challenges to the recall process have been filed in court.

“This is putting the cart before the horse,” Daley said.

The Ogunquit Resident Alliance has objected to multiple aspects of the recall process, including the validity of the petitions and whether the charter has been followed. Stephen Langsdorf, an attorney from PretiFlaherty hired by alliance chairman Peter Kahn, said the town should not allow a recall election to be called because of concerns about the process, including whether Murphy and the deputy clerk properly witnessed signatures signed on a copy of the petition at town hall. Langsdorf said his client may go to court to resolve questions about whether the recall process has violated the town charter.

If the three board members are recalled, the chairs of the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Assessment Review Board will serve as temporary Select Board members pending a second election, which would coincide with the annual town meeting.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @grahamgillian


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