Androscoggin County Commissioners Brian Ames of Lewiston, left, and John Michael of Auburn talk before the start of the Feb. 3 commission meeting at the county building in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

AUBURN — The recall effort against two Androscoggin County commissioners was dropped Thursday following their votes a day earlier to reject a controversial resolution that sought to prevent the county from enforcing Gov. Janet Mills’ executive orders to require masks and face coverings in public.

Votes by Commissioners Brian Ames of Lewiston and John Michael of Auburn to reject the resolution proposed by Commissioner Isaiah Lary of Wales convinced the local group to drop their recall efforts against the two.

The vote at Wednesday night’s meeting held via Zoom videoconference was 6-1, with Lary the only one voting for his statement.

“We want to thank the overwhelming majority of commissioners for listening to their constituents and voting to support public health,” Kiernan Majerus-Collins, a spokesman for the group, said. “In recognition of their responsible decision, we are dropping our recall efforts against Brian Ames and John Michael.”

He added that the efforts to recall Lary will continue, saying “his attacks on basic science and public health are an embarrassment to Androscoggin County.”

Lary, a Republican, represents District 4, which includes Lisbon, Sabattus and his hometown of Wales.

According to the County Charter, newly elected officials cannot be recalled until 90 days after they’ve been in office. Any recall effort will have to wait until after April 1 because Lary won reelection in November and his new term started Jan. 1.

While discussion on the anti-mask resolution may be over for now, the debate on masks will continue.

Commissioners tabled a COVID-19 policy for county employees after Lary and several spectators complained about one section in the policy that addresses masks — “To reduce the risk of the virus spreading in the workplace, public will be required to wear a mask when in public areas in the county building.”

Discussion that followed became heated and unruly as Chairwoman Sally Christner of Turner struggled to maintain some sense of decorum.

Lary was constantly interrupting Christner, claiming his rights to talk were being violated and that the board’s rules were not being followed.

More than 90 people watched the meeting via Zoom. Among them was Linda Scott, the former chairwoman of the Lewiston School Board, who called the meeting “an embarrassment.”

At one point, Commissioner Noel Madore of Lewiston shocked and outraged several individuals when he openly speculated that some people at the Feb. 3 may have been wearing firearms.

Reached Thursday to explain his comments, Madore said, “It’s partially speculation and partially confirmed.” He added that he did not actually see a firearm, but he and at least one other person felt that the way they were dressed and how their pockets were stuffed was an indication.

Madore said he hoped that metal detectors would be used for the next meeting.

When Register of Probate Thomas Reynolds said his office consistently makes accommodations for anyone who needs to contact his office, Ames felt such language should be added to the policy before he could support it.

Commissioners postponed further discussion until their next meeting.

When considering what the format should be for future meetings, there was more debate about wearing masks.

Lary wanted to allow people to attend with no restrictions, but that received no support from the other commissioners. Several of them settled on an alternative where commissioners would meet in person and spectators could attend if they wore masks. Otherwise, they could participate via Zoom videoconference.

“It’s very difficult to talk about things and toss around ideas and strategize and go over budget matters when we’re not in person,” Michael said.

Ames was concerned that some people may refuse to wear face coverings.

“It’s $1,000 per person fine and that money comes out of the county,” Ames said. “So your tax money is going toward fines. I’m not willing to take that on.”

“I think we have to address the fact that commissioners themselves need to wear masks,” Commissioner Roland Poirier of Lewiston said. “We are in violation, in my opinion. I’m not trying to tell you I’m a scientist or that I have a medical degree, but as far as I know, none of the commissioners do, either. We need to follow the mandate put out by the governor.”

At the request of Lary and a couple of spectators, Michael, who made the proposal, agreed to allow face shields as well as masks as approved face coverings at the meetings.

It remains unclear who will enforce the mask or face shield policy at the next meeting.

While most commissioners appear on board to wear masks, Lary has never worn one at a meeting.

Madore admits he’s worried how it will be enforced.

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