Four Ogunquit residents have filed a formal challenge to a rival group’s effort to recall three Select Board members.

The filing is based on a little-known provision in the town charter that does not clearly lay out what the town is supposed to do next, forcing officials to consult with the town attorney about how to proceed.

The challenge was filed Dec. 21 by residents concerned about petitions circulated to recall three board members and the number of signatures on those petitions. Town officials want the attorney to explain how the challenge should be reviewed.

The resident group Take Back Ogunquit has been working for months to force a townwide vote to recall selectmen Madeline Mooney, Robert Winn and chairman Charles Waite III. Last month the group submitted recall petitions with about 900 signatures verified by the town clerk’s office. The recall effort was launched after Town Manager Patricia Finnigan terminated Fire Chief Mark O’Brien.

Town Clerk Chris Murphy said Wednesday she was waiting for more information from the town attorney before scheduling a public hearing on the recall challenge. While the town charter lays out a procedure for recalling elected officials that allows residents to challenge recall petitions, it does not explain the process for doing so. Murphy said she needs more information, including who presides over the hearing and a time frame for ruling on the challenge.

After the public hearing, the Select Board is expected to set a date for a recall election provided the challenge is not upheld.

In a news release, the four challenging the petition signatures – Mary Buck, Barbara Ferraro, Patricia Hussey and Peter Kahn – said they worked with the law firm Preti Flaherty to identify irregularities in the recall paperwork filed with the town clerk. The group is challenging the validity of all petitions because, it alleges, John Mixon of Take Back Ogunquit was not a registered voter when the recall process was launched. The group also says the town clerk issued more than the 10 petitions allowed to be circulated at any given time, and failed to maintain control of a petition that was kept in her office for voters to sign. That petition was misplaced within the clerk’s office during the time signatures were being collected.

The group also is challenging the validity of more than a dozen individual signatures, saying the signers either were not registered voters or their signatures did not match those on their voter card or on other petitions. One person’s signature should not be considered valid because she signed using a married name, according to the group.

One of the four challengers also called the recall effort “purely political.”

“Its end-game is get rid of the new town manager. It is intended to ultimately install a new town manager who will be (beholden) to the special interests, not to the citizenry,” Buck said in a prepared statement. “This is extremely concerning to all of us who value our election process and integrity of the town manager and affected Select Board members.”

Jerry DeHart, a member of Take Back Ogunquit, called the challenge to the recall effort “a waste of taxpayer money.” He called assertions that petition circulators made up signatures “very low” and said Mixon is a longtime resident who has voted in the past eight elections.

“The allegations are absolutely incorrect and they know going in that they’re wrong,” DeHart said. “Most of these charges should be set aside.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: @grahamgillian


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