After months of political discord that has spilled out of town hall and onto social media, Ogunquit voters will head to the polls Thursday to decide if three select board members will be recalled from office.

The town’s first recall election targets Chairman Charles “Bunky” Waite and board members Madeline Mooney and Robert Winn Jr. A group of residents started the campaign to remove them from office after they supported the town manager’s decision to fire the town fire chief.

Since the recall campaign started in October, the bitter battle over the future of the board has prompted allegations of forged petition signatures, a lawsuit to try to stop the election, dueling social media campaigns and an investigation by Ogunquit police into vandalism of political signs.

The select board members facing recall say the effort to remove them from office is politically motivated to get rid of the town manager. They have repeatedly denied violating any laws, rules or ethics while serving on the 5-member board.

But the community members who support the recall have lodged a litany of complaints and allegations against the elected officials they want to oust from office. The group leading the recall effort, Take Back Ogunquit, includes local business owners, former select board members and current members of town committees. They say the recall has nothing to do with the town manager.

Town Clerk Chris Murphy said turnout will be high for the recall vote, which will be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Dunaway Center. She issued 415 absentee ballots. There are 1,223 registered voters in Ogunquit.

Waite, who is serving his second term, said a “deep divide” has emerged in town that has been heightened by social media. He and the other board members have had to deal with inaccurate and untrue information that has been posted about them, he said.

In a video posted on YouTube and shared on Facebook, the three board members facing recall outlined why they believe voters should keep them in office.

“This is, I feel, a very undemocratic and dangerous and costly precedent to be able to recall people who have done nothing wrong simply because you want their power,” Mooney said in the video.

Winn, who grew up in Ogunquit and has served multiple terms on the board, said he wants to focus on doing the town’s business rather than arguing with residents and defending himself against accusations that he is a liar or has acted unethically.

“All of this that has happened over the last six months has been grueling,” he said in the video. “It’s been brutal.”

Mark MacLeod, a recall supporter, said residents who plan to vote yes are “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome of Thursday’s vote.

“This is what we’ve been shooting for all along, to have people express themselves,” he said. “We’re very happy it’s finally getting to a vote.”

After residents in December submitted recall petitions, a different group of residents filed challenges to the petitions. Following a contentious hearing, the town clerk ruled the petitions were valid.

Murphy determined the recall petitions contained 257 valid signatures to recall Mooney, 259 to recall Waite, and 253 to recall Winn.

A campaign sign that was vandalized is posted on Route 1 in Ogunquit on Tuesday. Town voters go to the polls Thursday to decide whether to oust three members of the select board. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)

Four residents – Peter Kahn, Mary Buck, Barbara Ferraro and Patricia Hussey – filed a lawsuit in York County Superior Court challenging the clerk’s decision and the recall process. A judge issued a temporary order blocking the town from scheduling the election, but later ruled against the plaintiffs.

In his 21-page ruling, Superior Court Justice John O’Neil Jr. stated that “the Court discerns no reversible error on the part of the Town Clerk in certifying the recall petitions, and plaintiffs have not sustained their burden of proof” to have the petitions and signatures declared invalid.

Select board members John Daly and Richard Dolliver have both publicly supported the recall.

Waite said he is optimistic the town will find a way to move past the “ugliness” of the past six months, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

“I’m hoping when this is over, one way or another, there will be a time of healing,” he said. “This has not been beneficial for anyone in the community.”


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