March 16, 2013

Entire Old Orchard Beach council may face recall

By Gillian Graham
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — All seven members of the Town Council now face recall efforts as the fallout continues from months of turmoil in town government.

click image to enlarge

Old Orchard Beach Town Councilors, from left, Michael Coleman, Robert Quinn, Linda Mailhot, Sharri MacDonald, Laura Bolduc, Dana Furtado, and Robin Dayton listen to a resident speak during the Old Orchard Beach Town Council Meeting on Feb. 19, 2013.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

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Related Documents

PDF: Recall committee's request for petitions
PDF: Statement by recall committee

A committee of seven residents took out petitions late Thursday to recall Councilors Michael Coleman, Robin Dayton and Robert Quinn, the three-member minority that voted earlier this month against terminating the contract of Town Manger Mark Pearson.

On Tuesday, a separate group started the recall process against council Chairwoman Sharri MacDonald, Vice Chairwoman Laura Bolduc, Dana Furtado and Linda Mailhot. Those four councilors voted on March 5 to get rid of Pearson.

"If four are going to be recalled, let's recall all seven so we can come to a resolution," said Cari-Lyn Lane, chairwoman of the committee that's leading the latest recall effort. 

The petition drives follow months of tension and a series of angry council meetings, accusations and threats of legal action. If successful, they could lead to an unprecedented special election seeking an up-or-down vote on each member of the council.

The committee that's seeking to recall the council minority comprises Lane, Sheila White, Neal Weinstein, Michelle Arnold, Robin Dube, Guy Fontaine and William Daley.

Weinstein is the personal attorney for Bill Robertson, the town's public works director, whose contract was not renewed by Pearson. The council majority overturned that decision and Robertson continues to work for the town.

In paperwork filed with the town clerk, the committee said it is starting the recall effort because Dayton, Quinn and Coleman:

Failed to uphold the town charter and promoted numerous charter violations.

Failed to put the best interests of citizens before personal gain.

Failed to go into executive session and were willing to discuss personnel issues in public.

Failed to conduct public business in public.

Disrespected and degraded citizens at council meetings.

Incited the citizenry to riot with false statements and innuendo.

The committee said the three councilors made decisions and "handshakes" in executive session without public dialogue.

Lane said she is tired of the three councilors' behavior at meetings, including rolling their eyes and throwing papers.

"That is not a mature way to handle anything," Lane said. "This is a horrible representation of the council."

Coleman said the move to recall him, Quinn and Dayton is "predictable." He disputes the assertions made by committee members.

"If the people want that (majority) faction to run the town, then that's their choice," he said. "I'm eager to have this conversation and referendum on which direction the people in town want to go."

Like Coleman, Quinn said he was not surprised by the second recall effort. "It's putting a fly in the soup to distract from the original recall," he said.

Quinn said he would like to hear more specifics from committee members, such as what section of the town charter they believe he violated.

The committee seems to contradict itself by saying the council minority fails to go into executive session but then makes deals in closed-door meetings, he said.

Dayton said she will stay focused on her job as a town councilor and work to develop a municipal budget and purchasing policy.

"The citizens really need to think about how they want their town to be governed and what is good governance," she said. "The citizens obviously are upset and need the opportunity to decide what they want for the future of Old Orchard Beach. In the meantime, I'm going to stay focused on the tasks at hand."

The rival committee that launched the effort earlier this week to recall the council's majority said its members "are fed up with the reckless behavior of the majority of our Town Council. We have decided to start these recalls to bring stability back to our government."

David Francoeur, chairman of that committee, said members don't want elected officials to represent hidden agendas, fire a town manager without cause or work behind closed doors. The committee wants Pearson to return to work.

Pearson, who is on administrative leave until his contract is terminated April 3, has said through his attorney that he will sue the town for wrongful termination if the council does not reverse its decision. Pearson is Old Orchard Beach's fourth town manager since 2007.

Both recall committees have 30 days to collect at least 815 signatures of registered voters, on a separate petition for each town councilor.

If the signatures are certified by the town clerk, the council will have 45 days to schedule a recall vote. Councilors can be removed from office with a simple majority.

If the number of signatures to recall any individual councilor falls short of 815, the process ends and a new petition cannot be started for 180 days.

Old Orchard Beach has 7,268 registered voters.

Town Clerk Kim McLaughlin said the only other recall attempt in Old Orchard Beach came in 1990. The attempt to recall Councilors Norma Baker and F. William Schlatterer failed.  

McLaughlin will give a presentation about the recall process at Tuesday's council meeting. She said her presentation will include the cost of holding a special election, but those figures were not available Friday.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

Twitter: grahamgillian

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