She’s got the Republican nomination. And if all goes well for Susan Rossignol come November, she will carry the new title of Westbrook city clerk.
Then would come the truly hard part: The way things stand, Rossignol would be subject to arrest the moment she arrived at work.
“I can’t see where the city can have a trespass order on someone that’s elected,” mused Rossignol, the former city finance director who for over a year has been prohibited from setting foot inside Westbrook City Hall. “Maybe they’ll move me to the public safety building … I don’t care.”
Actually, Rossignol does care. A lot.
Some people, in fact, think she cares a wee bit too much about how she was let go in January 2010 by Mayor Colleen Hilton, who announced at her inauguration that Rossignol and Fire Chief Daniel Brock were getting the heave-ho.
Hilton’s supporters lauded it as a refreshingly decisive move by a new, no-nonsense mayor. Rossignol, on the other hand, got mad. Real mad.
So mad that in March 2010, Hilton took out a temporary protection-from-harassment order against Rossignol in which Her Honor alleged five incidents – including a confrontation between Rossignol and the mayor’s family – that left Hilton “frightened and threatened by (Rossignol’s) actions and manners of speech.”
A month later, a Portland District Court judge denied Hilton’s petition for a permanent order, ruling that Rossignol’s behavior hadn’t crossed the legal threshold for harassment.
Enter the Westbrook Police Department, which slapped Rossignol with a 12-month, municipal no-trespass order in May 2010 and renewed it for another year in May of this year. Hilton couldn’t be reached Tuesday, but said at the time, “It’s a safety concern.”
Rossignol already has gone the lawsuit route. But unlike former Fire Chief Brock, who last month settled with the city for $110,000, she got only a dismissal of her wrongful-termination case in U.S. District Court.
So now she’s taking her grievance to the campaign trail.
“I’m certainly going to speak out, like I am to you,” Rossignol said. “When questions are asked, I’m going to be honest.”
To be sure, Rossignol has miles to go before she gets read her Miranda warning.
She first must take out election papers at City Hall – no easy feat if they call 911 the moment you walk through the door.
“I have to make other arrangements to have people meet me at the public safety building,” she said. “So the world will be safe.”
She’ll then have to defeat her Democratic opponent, incumbent Lynda Adams, who in Rossignol’s opinion has “done a wonderful job.”
And truth be told, Rossignol hopes Republican mayoral candidate Bruce Chuluda (unseated by Hilton in 2010) will get his old job back and tear up the no-trespass order posthaste.
But what if Hilton and Rossignol both win? Will Westbrook’s next inauguration be accompanied by the click of handcuffs?
“I don’t see that situation as being incapable of resolution,” replied city attorney William Dale on Tuesday. Should Rossignol win, he said, “we’d have to sit down with the parties and if worse came to worse … have a judge help us work through it.”
Much like what they’ve done with the Charter Commission, to which Rossignol was elected the same night Hilton became mayor. In part to keep her out of the slammer, Rossignol said, the commission meets at the public safety building.
Still, as city clerk, Rossignol would expect nothing short of full capitulation. Angry as she still gets from time to time, she insists she simply wants to finish her career – she has four years until retirement – where it started.
“In 32 years, I think I’ve seen one person get banned from City Hall for any reason – and that’s because he said something about bringing in a bomb or something,” Rossignol said. “And I’ve never done any such thing.”
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: [email protected]