ROME — The elections and annual Town Meeting were anything but business as usual this weekend as a tie in a selectman’s race that would have forced a special election was broken when the incumbent announced just before Saturday’s meeting adjourned that she was exiting the contest.

That announcement by First Selectman Monica McCarthy apparently was the culmination of a controversy that had been brewing for several months in town.

McCarthy, who tied challenger Paul Anderson 137-137 on Friday, tried to explain at the end of Saturday’s meeting why she was not going to pursue the seat, saying she felt town officials should put the town’s interests before that of their own and their friends.

She also claimed that Town Clerk Julie Morrison, Third Selectman Kelly Archer and incoming Second Selectman Larry DiPietro Jr., who defeated incumbent Second Selectman Lois Stratton in a 145-131 vote Friday, tried to “smear” her and Stratton’s names. Archer defeated challenger Richard LaBelle Friday in a 146-126 vote.

Asked after the meeting about the situation, Morrison said she had quit her job as town clerk on Jan. 21 as she felt McCarthy and Stratton had created a hostile work environment. After leaving the job, Morrison shared on social media that she had quit, after which townspeople came to her defense and she ultimately returned to her job, she said.

“I decided to come back in February to run elections,” Morrison said. “What she (McCarthy) was referring to is what I put on my Facebook when I was not employed there.”

In the event of a tie, the town has seven days in which one of the candidates may decide not to pursue the seat and if that does not happen, the process must start over again and a special election must be held.

McCarthy, in her announcement to residents Saturday, said she decided to withdraw from the contest, which would prevent the town from having to go through the process again.

“It is 100% not because I don’t want to work with Larry (DiPietro) or Kelly (Archer),” she said.

Anderson, who now will serve with DiPietro and Archer on the board, said after the meeting that he had served as a selectman four or five times in the past, for a total of several years. Usually, he said, he ran for selectman to fill an open spot, but he ran this year because he did not like the way some things were going.

“I’m glad I’ll be back in,” he said.

Some town officials said the atmosphere at elections Friday was intense, with one person having been asked to leave the building because he was being volatile. A state police trooper stood in the hall outside Saturday’s meeting at Belgrade Central School. The meeting was held there instead of in Rome so as to allow for social distancing.

Meanwhile, Morrison and Road Commissioner Carroll Bubar were returned to their positions in Friday’s elections, with both having run unopposed. Tammy Lyons was reelected to her positions as tax collector and treasurer, and Andrew Cook, also running unopposed, was reelected to his seat on the Regional School Unit 18 Board of Directors.

Residents approved four referendum questions Friday: to raise and appropriate $202,588 for reconstruction work on Mercer Road, Wooster Hill Road and Crystal Springs Lane, approved by a 206-64 vote; to enact an adult-use recreational marijuana ordinance, 156-112; to enact the Rome Food Sovereignty Ordinance, 184-58; and to withdraw from Kennebec Regional Development Authority as soon as possible, 178-75.

Residents approved all but two of the 81 articles on the warrant during the three-hour meeting, moderated by Peter Schultz.

Voters rejected a proposal to change the term and method for selecting a town clerk from electing to appointing the person annually by the Board of Selectmen. Residents also defeated a request to authorize selectmen to ask state and federal elected officials to enact fossil fuel pricing legislation to speed the transition to clean energy sources and help protect Maine from increasing costs and environmental risks. Companies that extract fossil fuels would be charged a fee, with that money being disbursed equally among residents.

Peter Kallin and Barbara Russell sought to convince residents and officials of the importance of the measure, but some people said they didn’t believe the government would return the money to residents. Cook and LaBelle’s brother, Alan, called the proposal a “farce.”

Alice VanDerwerken, Richard LaBelle, Lincoln Nye, Joan Orr and Hillary Schultz were reelected to the town’s budget committee by a show of hands, and Trent Shute and Langdon Adams were elected as alternates to that board. Recreation Committee members Trent Shute, Sandy Shute, Susan Broz and Carroll Bubar also were reelected by a show of hands.

Residents voted to raise and appropriate $152,192 for municipal officers and officials’ salaries, $30,000 for repair of town maintained roads and bridges, $94,000 for snow plowing and sanding, $45,000 for salt and sand, $51,150 for the Rome Fire Department, $15,000 for the fire department truck reserve account, $13,249 for the Rome Rescue Department, $22,500 for Rome’s share of the second Belgrade Lakes full-time firefighter/paramedic’s salary, and $8,000 to fund year one of a two-year process to develop a town comprehensive plan. They also voted to amend the minimum lot size ordinance and commercial development review ordinance.

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