GORHAM — Town councilors said Tuesday that they want a clear definition of what crimes would get them kicked out of office, in a debate that followed the second drunken-driving charge against a Gorham councilor in two years.
The council discussed adding a rule that would force any member convicted of a Class A, B, C or D crime while in office to step down, but wanted complete lists of the crimes in those classes before voting on the rule. They postponed the vote until July.
The council also tabled a proposal to hold a townwide vote on the issue.
The town’s charter requires councilors who are convicted of moral turpitude to vacate their seats, but it doesn’t define the term. Two years ago, after Councilor Suzanne Phillips pleaded guilty to drunken driving, the council decided that crime didn’t fit the definition.
The debate was reignited after Councilor Benjamin Hartwell was charged with drunken driving in March.
“We didn’t think this would keep cropping up,” said Chairman Michael Phinney at the meeting Tuesday. “Hopefully, we’ll never have to face it again.”
The council considered a proposal to define moral turpitude as certain crimes, but the proposal was opposed by John Doyle, a resident who said the legal term is supposed to indicate “crimes of severe depravity” so assigning it to crimes like drunken-driving would “water that down.”
Several councilors agreed that taking out the term and listing certain classes of crimes could be more effective, but some wanted more information about those crimes.
“I don’t really need to know what an A, B, C or D is, because I don’t have any,” said Councilor Matthew Robinson. “I don’t think driving under the influence on our streets is what voters wanted.”
In May 2012, police said Phillips sideswiped two parked cars on School Street in Gorham and drove away. She was charged with operating under the influence, as well as leaving the scene of an accident, a charge that was later dropped.
Hartwell was charged with drunken driving after he drove his car off Fort Hill Road in Gorham and hit a tree. He is scheduled to appear in court on May 14.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: