A York County Superior Court judge this week lifted a stay that had temporarily blocked preparations for a recall election in Ogunquit, but the court still must decide on a lawsuit seeking to block the vote.

The stay was issued in February, hours before the Ogunquit Select Board was scheduled to set a date for a recall election targeting Chairman Charles “Bunky” Waite, Madeline Mooney and Robert Winn Jr. The contentious recall effort, launched after the firing of the Ogunquit fire chief, has divided the small town and fueled a series of angry town meetings.

Superior Court Justice John O’Neil on Monday lifted the temporary stay and outlined the future proceedings in a lawsuit filed against the town by residents Mary Buck, Barbara Ferraro, Patricia Hussey and Peter Kahn. The plaintiffs and town had agreed to the temporary stay, according to court records.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to stop the town from moving forward with the recall election, arguing that there are a number of problems with the recall petitions and the way the process was handled by town officials. The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction to stop an election from being held, as well as a declaratory judgment ordering the town to take no further actions related to the recall.

O’Neil said the court would not rule on a pending motion for a temporary restraining order because both the plaintiffs and defendant had consented to the temporary stay. He also laid out an expedited schedule to hear the case, with written discovery due by March 22. Briefs must be filed by April 1 and oral arguments are expected to be held the following week.

O’Neil also granted a motion for intervenor status to Jerry DeHart, an Ogunquit resident who circulated recall petitions.


Stephen Langsdorf, an attorney from Preti-Flaherty who represents the plaintiffs, said that O’Neil’s order outlines an unusually expedited schedule that will allow time for oral arguments and a ruling before an election would be held, even if an election date is set by the Select Board at its next regular meeting on March 19. The charter says a recall election must be held 45 to 60 days from the date the board calls for a vote.

Langsdorf said he and his clients had been concerned about an election being held before the judge ruled on the lawsuit.

“We thought that would be an untenable situation,” he said. “It’s reasonable that the court will rule before there would be an actual election.”

Langsdorf said O’Neil’s order “clearly recognized we’ve shown there are irregularities” in the petition and certification process.

Town Clerk Chris Murphy determined the recall petitions contained 257 valid signatures to recall Mooney, 259 signatures to recall Waite and 253 signatures to recall Winn. Take Back Ogunquit, the group that launched the recall effort, was required to submit 215 signatures for each Select Board member it seeks to recall. Under the town charter, the Select Board has 10 days after receiving the certified recall petitions to schedule the election.

If the Select Board fails to call the election, the town charter allows for it to be called by a notary public if petitioners submit to that person a written petition with the number of signatures equal to at least 10 percent of the number of signatures on the certified recall petition.

Town Manager Patricia Finnigan did not respond to multiple requests for comment Thursday.

DeHart said he was happy with the O’Neil’s order because it will allow the recall election process to move forward. Recall supporters plan to have a notary public call the election within the next few days.

“(O’Neil) obviously felt it important to let the voters be heard and we’re going to do just that,” DeHart said. “We’ll have a free and fair election for recall and the voters will decide.”

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