AUGUSTA — A state lawmaker from Chelsea wants to make it possible for towns without recall provisions to get rid of municipal officials.

Rep. Deborah Sanderson, a Republican, told lawmakers Monday that recent troubles in her hometown led her to sponsor L.D. 1533.

“I live in Chelsea, and this past winter my town found itself in a very difficult position,” she told the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee. “You could even say that Chelsea experienced what can only be called a perfect storm.”

Sanderson was referring to the arrest of Selectwoman Carole Swan, who was charged in February with aggravated forgery, attempted theft and two counts of improper compensation for services.

Swan allegedly pressured a plow contractor from Whitefield to pay her $10,000 and sparked a corruption probe by asking for more, according to a lawyer hired by the town.

Swan has not resigned from the Board of Selectmen. Because there was already one open seat on the board, town business was effectively halted for weeks because there was no quorum for meetings. Just recently, Swan’s bail conditions were amended so she could have contact with other town officials.

Sanderson’s bill would establish a procedure to recall an elected official in any town that lacks an ordinance or a charter provision to allow it.

She offered an amendment Monday that says a recall could happen without a conviction if the elected official could no longer perform his or her duties because of pending charges and there were no quorum to conduct business. She called the law “a safety net for times of crisis.”

The Maine Municipal Association opposes the bill, saying that towns already have the power to adopt recall ordinances.

“If the community believes a recall ordinance is unnecessary, then the state should not take it upon itself to enact one for them,” said Kate Dufour, a lobbyist for the association.

Also, she said, the association opposes the bill because it would not apply to other elected officials, such as those elected to school, county and state positions.

No one else testified on the bill. The committee is scheduled to vote on it Wednesday.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]