Superior Court Justice William Stokes, center, addresses lawyer Benjamin Smith, left, on Wednesday as Smith stands next to his client, Cheryl Peaslee, at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

PITTSTON — An ordinance that allowed elected officials to be recalled from office for any reason has been rescinded by voters.

Residents tossed out the town ordinance at a packed special meeting Thursday night, just hours after state Superior Court Justice William Stokes earlier in the day rejected an attempt to stop the meeting from happening.

The meeting and vote took place while a vote is looming next month on a citizen petition-forced proposal to recall Selectman Joe Caputo from office. Some residents have claimed Caputo is at the center of a “hostile” environment at the Town Office, among other complaints.

The town ordinance, enacted in 2005, had allowed for the recall of “any elected municipal official or elected municipal officer of the town of Pittston.”

With the town’s ordinance rescinded, Pittston officials now rely on state law to determine when and how residents can remove elected officials from office. Maine law stipulates an elected official can be the subject of a recall only if the official is convicted of a crime committed during their term in office, and the municipality is the victim.

Town officials said the outcome Thursday would have no effect on the scheduled March 18 vote on whether to recall Caputo because that effort was prompted by a citizen petition filed while the town recall ordinance was still in place.


Selectman Joe Caputo holds up a card to vote March 18, 2023, during the annual Pittston Town Meeting at Pittston Consolidated School. A vote is scheduled for March 18, 2024, to ask if residents want to recall Caputo from the Pittston Select Board. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

At Thursday’s meeting, Caputo urged residents to vote to rescind the town’s ordinance, which allowed any resident to force a recall vote by getting about 150 residents to sign a petition.

“I can tell you if you were an official in this town, and I don’t like the color of your shoelaces, that’s all it takes to call for a recall,” Caputo said. “And it has been incredibly expensive to get through this. The way to do this is to create an ordinance that is clear and is a direct, step-after-step process, like the state’s (statute).”

Caputo said the threat of facing a recall for no reason would likely prevent people from running for office in Pittston.

After about 90 minutes of discussion Thursday night, residents voted overwhelmingly to rescind the town’s recall ordinance. Selectmen said the vote meant the ordinance was revoked immediately.

Several residents were not happy about the vote’s outcome, saying the state statute is too restrictive.

“Right now, we’re very wide open, and there’s no limits on what you can call a recall for,” resident Will Guerrette said. “If we vote to rescind it tonight, we’ll be very limited … Those are radical, extreme differences. Those are both horribly bad choice on both ends.”


Selectman Jane Hubert said a group of residents has expressed interest in working on a new ordinance, a process that could begin next week.

Hundreds of residents packed Thursday night’s meeting, and for a time were spread over two locations. The meeting was originally scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Town Office, but, according to an emailed notice from the town, officials planned to move the gathering to the Pittston Consolidated School to accommodate the turnout, which was expected to exceed the Town Office’s capacity.

About 35 people were at the Town Office at 6 p.m. and the meeting was convened. A motion was made, however, to reconvene at 6:30 p.m. at the school, where many residents were waiting. The motion passed unanimously.

The meeting began only hours after Stokes had rejected a court action filed by resident Cheryl Peaslee, who sought an injunction to prevent the special town meeting from taking place. Stokes ruled against Peaslee, who brought a lawsuit claiming town selectmen had made procedural errors that amounted to inadequate public notice when they scheduled the special meeting earlier this month.

Peaslee sought to stop the town from holding the special town meeting. Her lawyer argued in court Wednesday that holding the meeting could cause irreparable harm because town officials might not go forward with the March 18 vote to recall Caputo.

In December, Peaslee submitted a petition seeking Caputo’s ouster over concerns that he has had a role in creating a “hostile” work environment at the Town Office.

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