Sunday, March 9, 2014
SABATTUS – Selectmen in Sabattus are moving to unseat a town official who wrote a Facebook post calling for President Obama to be shot and including a racial slur.
Mark Duquette, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, called a special meeting for Thursday night to consider removing David Marsters from the several town committees on which he serves. Marsters' status is the only item on the meeting agenda.
"I felt it's my responsibility, as swiftly as possible, to make it clear the radical views of Mr. Marsters are not the views of the Board of Selectmen, of the town or of anyone I know in Sabattus," Duquette said.
Marsters' message, posted Friday, has drawn widespread attention from the media and strong criticism from town officials and civil rights advocates.
It also has the attention of local police and the Secret Service, which protects the president and investigates all potential threats against him. Marsters said he got a visit from the Secret Service on Tuesday.
His Facebook message, posted Friday, said, "Shoot the ..." and included a racial slur, over a picture of President Obama.
Marsters said he got a telephone threat Wednesday morning telling him to move back to Massachusetts or the caller would "blow your ... head off."
Marsters, a retired police officer from Malden, Mass., has lived in Maine for several years.
He said he passed along the caller's Sabattus telephone number, which appeared on his caller ID, to the police, but told them he didn't want to press charges.
"He might have said something like I did, might be having a bad day," Marsters said of the caller.
He said he told police, "Let it go for this time. If he calls again, prosecute."
Town Manager Andrew Gilmore confirmed Marsters' account of the telephone call, and said police interviewed the person who made it.
"There is a dispute about whether there was a threat," Gilmore said. "Mr. Marsters did not want to pursue it, so it's a closed issue."
Marsters, 68, has taken out nomination papers to run for selectman, and said Tuesday that he plans to continue his election effort. Nominations papers are due Sept. 23.
He now serves on Sabattus' budget committee, its ordinance review committee and a public works citizen advisory committee. Some members of the budget committee are elected, but Marsters was appointed by the five-member Board of Selectmen.
He is also listed as a member of the town's charter commission, but since the town recently completed revisions to its charter, the commission no longer meets.
Marsters says his Facebook post was not intended as a threat and was taken out of context. He said Wednesday that he thinks the selectmen are overreacting.
"I think they're jumping the gun, might be my opinion," he said by telephone.
Marsters said he hasn't decided whether he will attend Thursday's meeting. He said the board probably has the authority to remove him from his posts, but shouldn't.
"If they're going to do it, they're going to lose a good man," he said. "It seems like nobody else in Sabattus cares enough. I care about this community more than people living here 30 or 40 years."
Gilmore said the volunteers on the town's boards and committees serve at the will of the selectmen, who make the appointments. There are no guidelines in the town charter for removing someone from a committee; it is left to the discretion of the board, he said.
Marsters is not paid for his service, so he doesn't have the legal protections of an employee, Gilmore said.
Marsters' Facebook page includes many anti-Obama posts and links to right-wing websites. He said he doesn't know how the furor over his post or the selectmen's vote on his committee assignments will affect his candidacy for selectman.
He said he has not received calls of support. "A lot of people are afraid, I think," he said.
Sabattus apparently is friendly territory for the president. In his re-election bid last year, Obama beat Republican Mitt Romney 47 percent to 42 percent in Sabattus, according to the Secretary of State's Office.
Marsters was interviewed by the Secret Service on Tuesday and his case was to be referred up the agency's chain of command, he said.
It's not clear what action, if any, the agency might take against Marsters, and the town won't necessarily be privy to that, Gilmore said.
"When the men in the black Suburbans show up, they don't necessarily share whether he's been on their radar screen," Gilmore said. "We don't know that and we won't necessarily ever know that."
Thursday's meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the municipal building.
Duquette, the board's chairman, said he has not discussed the issue or the meeting with the other selectmen, though they agreed to meet.
Duquette said he plans to have a public comment session before the meeting, and he will work hard to keep the meeting from getting too inflammatory.
"We are going to speak civilly," he said. "There isn't going to be a lynch mob."
He's asked Police Chief Anthony Ward to attend, he said, just to ensure that things don't get out of hand.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: