BUXTON — The selectwoman convicted of disorderly conduct for hitting a town employee resigned her position Wednesday amid a push by residents for her to step down.

The Buxton Board of Selectman voted unanimously to accept Chairwoman Jean Harmon’s resignation, effective immediately. Harmon, who served on the board for 15 years, was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct last week in a plea agreement reached with the prosecutor three months after a mistrial.

Selectman Dennis Santolucito, vice chairman of the board, said the past  year “just cut up the community.”

“I do think it’s important to begin a process of healing and moving forward,” he said.

Harmon was not at the meeting and the town clerk said he did not know if she had submitted a written resignation. A woman who answered Harmon’s phone said she was not available and told a reporter not to call back.

A special election will be held to fill her seat through June 2020.

Harmon was charged with assaulting Gregory Heffernan, the solid waste manager, in October 2018 after a disagreement over town policy outside of town hall. During the altercation captured by police department security cameras, Harmon slapped Heffernan on the side of the head, then led him back into the building.

As part of a plea deal signed Oct. 7, an assault charge was dropped and Harmon pleaded nolo contendere, or no contest, to a single charge of disorderly conduct, a Class E misdemeanor.

In Maine, a Class E crime is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Though Harmon paid a $500 fine and did not receive any jail time, the town charter says a person “shall forfeit the office of Selectman if he/she is convicted of a crime or offense punishable by a sentence of imprisonment for more than 30 days.”

Harmon initially pleaded not guilty to Class D assault, court documents show. A mistrial was declared in July when a jury could not reach a verdict on the assault charge.

Michael Ayotte, Harmon’s attorney, told the Portland Press Herald in June that Harmon and Heffernan had a 15-year working relationship. Harmon often used a “Gibbs cuff” in playful exchanges between herself and Heffernan for the past eight years.

A “Gibbs cuff” is a trademark slap TV character Leroy Jethro Gibbs gives to members of his team on the hit television show “NCIS.”

After the mistrial, Heffernan told the American Journal that the case has ruined his reputation and he fears it will cost him his job. He called Harmon “the town bully” and said she hit him on the eardrum during the altercation outside town hall.

Heffernan, who said he has been publicly accosted while shopping, told the American Journal he has filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission.

There was a standing-room-only crowd of more than 50 residents at town hall Wednesday night, the second week in a row a large crowd turned out to pressure Harmon to resign.

The vote to accept the resignation was met with applause, which Santolucito quieted before opening a public comment session to allow residents to ask questions of board members and the town attorney.

Several residents told selectmen they didn’t do enough to protect the town employee and questioned why the board didn’t take any action.

“There was total silence for a whole year,” said resident Ellen DeCotiis, who serves on the MSAD 6 Board of Directors and pushed for Harmon’s resignation.

Santolucito said selectmen “had been told clearly not to discuss it by legal authorities.” The board does not have the authority to remove a selectmen from office.

During the meeting, police Chief Troy Cline addressed misinformation about the case that had circulated in town. Cline said he took a report from Heffernan about the incident and asked the Saco Police Department to investigate because it would have been a conflict of interest for Buxton police to handle the case.

“The insinuation that had it not been on video, it wouldn’t have been investigated is false,” he said.

Selectman Mark Blier acknowledged residents’ concerns that selectmen could have done things differently and said the board made mistakes in how it handled the situation.

“Our intentions here were not to hurt anyone. We tried to make this move forward in the best way possible,” he said. “Could we have done things better? Yes we can. This is a learning experience.”

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