Ogunquit residents narrowly voted Thursday to keep three selectmen targeted by a divisive recall campaign.

A vandalized campaign sign stands on Route 1 in Ogunquit on Tuesday. Town voters went to the polls Thursday and decided to keep all three members of the select board who were targeted in the recall. Press Herald photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Chairman Charles “Bunky” Waite and board members Madeline Mooney and Robert Winn Jr. all will retain their seats following the town’s first recall election.

The vote was 412-330 for Winn, 386-358 for Waite and 384-360 for Mooney, Town Clerk Christine Murphy said.

A group of residents started the campaign to remove the three selectmen from office after they supported Town Manager Patricia Finnegan’s decision last fall to fire Mark O’ Brien, the town’s fire chief. The remaining two selectmen, John Daly and Richard Dolliver, have publicly supported the recall of their colleagues.

The select board members facing recall say the effort to remove them from office was a politically motivated attempt to get rid of the town manager. They have repeatedly denied violating any laws, rules or ethics while serving on the five-member board.

But the community members backing the recall lodged a litany of complaints and allegations against the elected officials they wanted to oust from office.

Since the recall campaign started in October, the bitter battle over the future of the board has prompted allegations of forged petition signatures, a lawsuit to try to stop the election, dueling social media campaigns and an investigation by Ogunquit police into vandalism of political signs.

The group leading the recall effort, Take Back Ogunquit, includes local business owners, former select board members and current members of town committees. They say the recall has nothing to do with the town manager.

Take Back Ogunquit, on its Facebook page, appears to have accepted defeat. In a Thursday night post, the group said, “Recall failed. Thanks everyone for your fantastic support. We will stay the course and continue to speak out on the issues that need to be aired.”

Four residents – Peter Kahn, Mary Buck, Barbara Ferraro and Patricia Hussey – filed a counter lawsuit in York County Superior Court challenging the recall process, arguing that recall petitions did not contain enough valid signatures.

Murphy, the town clerk, determined the recall petitions contained 257 valid signatures to recall Mooney, 259 to recall Waite, and 253 to recall Winn.

Kahn said the narrow recall vote was an indication that there were strong feelings on both sides. But he said townspeople should strive to put their differences aside and work together.

“Now is the time to come together and work with the town,” Kahn said in a telephone interview Thursday night. “People should try to reconcile their differences and work to make Ogunquit a better place.”

Superior Court Justice John O’Neil Jr.  issued a temporary order blocking the town from scheduling the election, but in April ruled against the plaintiffs’ arguments, allowing the recall election to move forward.

Murphy had anticipated turnout would be high for the recall vote. She issued 415 absentee ballots before Thursday’s vote. There are 1,223 registered voters in Ogunquit. About 740 residents voted in Tuesday’s election.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]