WESTBROOK — A Westbrook resident who hosts a radio talk show wants the city to create a process for recalling elected officials so voters can oust a school board member for her part in the controversy caused by the overturned suspensions of high school athletes last fall. Ray Richardson has called for the resignation of School Committee member Suzanne Joyce on his show on WLOB-AM. On Monday, he asked the City Council to establish a way to recall elected officials — something that Westbrook doesn’t have in its ordinances or charter.

The council voted unanimously to refer Richardson’s request to its Committee of the Whole.

Asked why he wants Joyce recalled, Richardson said, “I think the Alfano report speaks for itself,” referring to a report by John Alfano, who was hired to look into the Westbrook School Department’s decision to overturn the suspensions of about 30 student-athletes who attended a drinking party in October.

The report says a school board member, whose son was among those suspended, called and visited the office of Superintendent Marc Gousse to discuss her son’s discipline. Gousse directed her to talk instead with high school Principal Jon Ross, who heard the students’ appeals of their suspensions.

At Ross’ request, Gousse sat in a nearby office when Ross heard the appeal of the board member’s son. The superintendent didn’t do that for any other hearings.

All of the suspensions were overturned after Ross determined that the investigation was flawed because four girls who were at the party were allowed to attend their soccer team’s banquet. That enabled several football players to play in a playoff game the same day, which triggered accusations of favoritism.


“The strong opposition (to the suspensions) coming from the parents of the suspended football players, one of whom is a school board member adding to the pressure, real or imagined, was too much for the administrators to endure,” the report said.

The report said the board member’s access to the school and involvement in volunteer activities complicated her role.

“Perhaps the board member needs to choose between the school board or volunteer activities,” the report said, “because engaging in both is not helpful to the board member, the school board or (Westbrook High School).”

Joyce said she will not disclose whether she is the board member mentioned in the report because the board’s legal counsel advised members against it, to avoid identifying the board member’s son.

All of the other women on the board have denied that they are mentioned in the report.

Richardson said that if the council establishes a process to allow recalls, he will start a recall effort unless Joyce agrees to resign.


Joyce, who was a city councilor for 10 years, has served on the school board since 2010. She was elected to a three-year term in November.

“I have had incredible support from this community and it’s still continuing,” she said in an interview Monday night.

She said she doesn’t plan to resign and is disappointed that Richardson hasn’t spoken to her personally. “I don’t understand what anyone has thought I have done wrong,” she said.

She said she supports having a process to recall elected officials.

City Councilor Mike Foley, who made the motion to consider Richardson’s request, said he always assumed there was a process for recalling officials in Westbrook but learned recently that there isn’t.

“I think it’s important that communities have these abilities,” he said. He wouldn’t comment on Richardson’s intention to recall Joyce, because of her pending litigation against the city.

Joyce sent a notice of intent to sue to the city in February, claiming she was wrongfully charged with hindering a criminal investigation against a school employee. The charge was dropped in September.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: [email protected]Twitter: @lesliebridgers

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