Janet Kuech and her lawyer, Jonathan Goodman, attend the Special Town Council meeting Tuesday in Gorham. Robert Lowell / American Journal

GORHAM — Averting litigation, a subdued Town Council Tuesday unanimously agreed to seat Janet Kuech on the board.

The council previously disqualified Kuech, who won election to the council in November, saying town employees were prevented from holding office under the town charter. Kuech, an education technician at Narragansett School, and the Maine Education Association filed a lawsuit against the town in December.

Because of the lawsuit, a judge must approve the council’s consent agreement to seat Kuech.

The decision came after an hour-long private meeting Tuesday between the council and its lawyer, Durward Parkinson.

Janet Kuech celebrates with a root beer float. A courtesy photo

Kuech, at the public portion of Tuesday’s meeting with her lawyer, Jonathan Goodman, said after its conclusion that she was ready to celebrate.

“I have a root beer float in my refrigerator,” the jubilant Kuech said. “It’s been a very long process.”

This week’s Town Council action averts a court trial. A settlement was apparently hammered out Feb. 7 in court mediation, which both Parkinson and Goodman said is confidential.

“We’re pleased they were able to work it out,” Goodman said. “We’re appreciative that the council worked with us.”

Goodman said Kuech has agreed to recuse herself in educational matters and agreed to resign from a part-time library job.

Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Thomas Warren was scheduled to review the council’s consent agreement at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, after the American Journal’s print deadline. If the judge signs off on it, the matter is put to rest, Parkinson said.

Some councilors were not happy with the process.

“I am disappointed about being put in this situation. It was a difficult decision to make,” said Town Council Chairwoman Suzanne Phillips.

“I’m disappointed we’re at this point,” Town Councilor Virginia Wilder Cross said before the vote. “I’m disappointed Ms. Kuech decided to take it this far.”

The Town Council voted at a special Town Council meeting Nov. 12 last year to disqualify Kuech, pointing to the town charter that says councilors “shall hold no office of emolument or profit under the town charter or ordinances.” In December, it declined to reconsider the vote. Kuech’s lawsuit was filed Dec. 12.

“I think we need to move forward with clarifying the town charter, as do many citizens who have contacted me,” Phillips said.

Court approval will cancel the election to fill the Town Council vacancy, which was slated to be part of the state election March 3. For that election, Town Clerk Laurie Nordfors said she had received 210 requests for local absentee ballots. The ballots have been printed costing $2,124.67, which includes: a layout charge, $36.75; coding, $1,350; local envelopes, $120; and postage, $130, according to Nordfors.

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