Pittston’s interim town clerk, Christian Jensen, certified a petition to recall one of the selectmen but urged officials to seek legal advice before calling for a special election. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel file

PITTSTON – Pittston’s acting town clerk certified a petition to recall Selectman Joe Caputo even as he urged the Select Board to seek legal counsel before ordering an election because of concerns about the validity of “many” signatures.

The previous town clerk, who resigned amid the recall effort, had already certified the signatures on Dec. 26. But she was blocked from handing the petition to the Select Board because of a possible conflict of interest — one of the selectmen signed the document calling for Caputo’s removal. 

A town ordinance states a petition to remove an elected official from office should be addressed to “those members of the Select Board having no interest” in the recall.

Chairperson Jane Hubert asked town employees at a December meeting to confirm whether Selectman Jean Ambrose could be listed as a recipient after she signed the petition as a citizen.

Interim Town Clerk Christian Jensen conferred with a Maine Municipal Association attorney and on Jan. 3 forwarded the petition to the Select Board without changes.

“However, I recommend that the Select Board seek legal counsel before proceeding (with) the order for a recall election,” Jensen wrote in the memo. “Based on my own findings, I believe that many of the signatures that were certified by the previous Town Clerk could be challenged.”


Jensen reiterated the lack of clarity around whom the petition can be addressed to and brought up whether a state law that is stricter than the town’s ordinance needs to be considered, but did not not weigh in with answers.

Hubert, who helped create the recall ordinance nearly two decades ago, said her intent in crafting the rules “was not to have opinion removal, but a factual endeavor.” The ordinance has not been updated since 2005.

“In summary, I’m seeking legal counsel in putting this in the right direction,” Hubert said.  


Petition for the Recall of Joe Caputo, Pittston Selectperson by Maine Trust For Local News on Scribd

The effort to recall Caputo started in early November when resident Cheryl Peaslee began to collect signatures to have his title revoked as a way to restore the “friendly” atmosphere to the town her family has called home for generations. Peaslee submitted the petition Dec. 21 with the required 153 signatures of Pittston voters.


Separate from the petition, Peaslee sent a letter out to residents of the town with her reasoning for the recall, where she spoke of a “hostile” work environment in the town’s front office.

About a month later, two of the town’s three front-office employees resigned. Jensen, the treasurer, stepped up at last meeting to take the place of former Town Clerk Deb Barry. Barry and former Town Administrator Deb MacInnes had their last days on Dec. 29.

“The past few years have been difficult for me and the people around me,” Barry wrote in her resignation letter, which was obtained through a Freedom of Access Act request. “I have felt a lack of confidence in my abilities from the last few boards.”

MacInnes wrote that she resigned because of the “hostile, unhappy, mean-spirited work environment for the past two years. There is no longer a team working together for the betterment of the town. I am tired of trying.” 

“To those that had a hand in driving out the town clerk and myself, you got what you wanted,” MacInnes wrote. “Shame on you.”

Peaslee said at Wednesday night’s meeting that since her letter went out, she has seen improvements in town governance.


“I ask the people to put the personal agenda aside because it takes a village,” Peaslee said. “Since the recall, I’ve seen a kinder Select Board, and I hope it remains that way.” 

Autumn DeVries, a resident who is opposed to the recall, said she disagrees with a statement on the petition that reads: “Voters lost faith in Mr. Caputo’s ability to act in best interest of town, as he has not acted in best interest for voters.” 

DeVries spoke about Caputo’s attempt to hold Road Commissioner Sam Snow accountable by reviewing the spending receipts for his projects, which the Select Board mandated he hand over. That requirement was not in place until Caputo took office.

“Increasing fiscal responsibility is working in best interest, and regarding his ability since being elected: we have all seen the strength and passion from (Caputo) despite the anger pointed at him directly,” DeVries said. “He is highly capable of putting voter’s concerns on the agenda.” 

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