Mechanic Falls interim Town Clerk Julie Ward receives an affidavit Monday from resident Mark Elliott as part of an effort to recall four of the five town councilors. Eriks Petersons photo

MECHANIC FALLS — An effort to recall four town councilors began just after 8 a.m. Monday when Mark Elliott presented a signed affidavit to interim Town Clerk Julie Ward, the result of the controversial dismissal of Town Manager Zakk Maher.

The action taken by Elliott and four other residents is tied to the 4-1 vote taken by the council June 17 when Maher was dismissed.

At a follow-up meeting June 25, councilors voted to pass a preliminary resolution letter to be sent to Maher explaining their decision and declared he was on administrative leave.

The letter stated his “termination is due to lack of communication, follow-through and fit with the town.”

The preliminary resolution letter was released to the public Thursday when Maher’s lawyer, Adam Lee, filed a lawsuit in Androscoggin County Superior Court claiming the council failed to follow the state’s open-meeting law.

Further details that would explain the council’s statement remain secret despite Lee’s assertion the entire removal process of Maher be in the public eye.

The town’s attorney, Jack Conway of Linnell, Choate & Webber, has said is a confidential employer-employee matter.

Maher was in the 10th month of his four-year contract when he was relieved of the job. Lee said Maher wants to return to his position.

At two public sessions, on June 25 and July 8, residents voiced support for Maher. Many also wanted to know the reasons behind Maher’s dismissal and if the council followed dismissal rules laid out in the town charter. On Conway’s advice, the council remained silent on the issue.

According to the charter, a recall petition can be initiated by a committee of five or more registered voters of the town. The affidavit must contain the name and mailing address of the councilor sought to be recalled as well as the names and addresses of the recall committee members.

The four councilors who are to be petitioned for a recall are Chairperson Cathy Fifield, Vice Chairman Wayne Hackett, Nicholas Konstantoulakis and recently elected councilor John Emery. Kieth Bennett, who voted against dismissing Maher on June 17, was not included in the affidavit.

The petition committee members are Elliott, Aaron Ouellette, Randal Madore, Thomas Webster and William Dyer.

The affidavit to recall states, “In light of recent events and behavior of the Town Council of Mechanic Falls, ME and the growing lack of confidence in the Town Council by the people of Mechanic Falls, we, the undersigned, on behalf of the people of Mechanic Falls, are calling for a recall of the following council members as demanded by the people.”

The affidavit also included the reasons for the recall: “Behavior unbecoming of a representative of the people, their choosing to undermine and ignore the town’s charter and various state laws.”

According to the charter, a successful recall petition must be signed by at least a number equal to 15% of the total number of qualified voters who cast votes in the most recent gubernatorial election. In the 2018 gubernatorial election, Ward said, 1,278 Mechanic Falls voters cast ballots, which means each recall petition for each of the four councilors must have at least 192 qualified signatures, according to Ward.

Petitions must be filed within 30 days of the issuance of the blank petition sheets.

The town clerk has 20 days to determine if the petitions have a sufficient number of names. If confirmed, the Town Council then has 30 days to hold a municipal election and submit the recall question. The total number of votes cast in the recall must be at least 30% of the total number of votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

Elliott and the recall petition committee released the following statement Monday:

“We, as residents of Mechanic Falls, are deeply saddened that we have to come to the point of having to recall certain councilors from our Town Council. The negative media attention their recent behavior has brought to our small town and the lack of judgment in recent decisions is going to be costly for all of us.

“The demand for a recall has echoed through our streets for weeks and five of us have decided to step up and have submitted the necessary affidavit to form a recall committee for the purpose of collecting petition signatures to recall the councilors. … It is time for the voice of the people to be heard and heard it will be.”

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