Mel Craig, left, and Nichole Stevens on Tuesday submit a recall petition with 335 signatures to New Gloucester Deputy Town Clerk Kimberly Getchell. Contributed / Tom Jordan

NEW GLOUCESTER — A group of residents submitted a petition to recall Selectman George Colby Tuesday morning, giving the town clerk and Board of Selectmen 20 days to certify the signatures and call a special election.

Stephen Hathorne, a former selectman, and Nichole Stevens, an SAD 15 Board memberwere the primary organizers of the petition drive, but several residents, many of whom are active in the group New Gloucester United Against Racism, aided in collecting the 335 signatures.

A residents group collected signatures to recall Selectman George Colby at the New Gloucester Transfer Station on Jan. 9. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

According to the town’s recall ordinance, a petition must have signatures from at least 10% of the number of ballots cast in the most recent gubernatorial election, or, in this case, about 293 signatures.

The petition that Stevens and Mel Craig submitted to the town Tuesday had 335 signatures, according to a press release prepared by Lauren Frantz.

The town clerk has 10 days as of Tuesday to certify the signatures and hand over the petition to the Board of Selectmen, according to the recall ordinance. The Selectboard then has 10 days to call for a special town vote, which must be held within 45 to 60 days from that point. For the recall to pass, 55% of voters must vote in favor.

The recall effort follows a comment Colby made during a Dec. 3 Board of Selectmen meeting following the Pledge of Allegiance in which he said, “Liberty and justice for all, for everyone. Even us white folks!”

The town edited out the comments in the publicly available recording of the meeting on New Gloucester Television’s website on the advice of the town attorney, Town Manager Brenda Fox-Howard said last month. No editing disclosure initially was posted with the video, but a note that reads “(Edited)” has since been added. The town provided the unedited video to the Lakes Region Weekly in response to a Freedom of Access Act request.

Some petitioners, such as NG United Against Racism founder Cam Dufty, said this month that Colby has a history of making “racist” and inappropriate remarks, referring to a 2010 email exchange between Colby and then-Selectman Joshua McHenry.

“I went to Walmart and saw they had Obama Christmas tree ornaments. Now ain’t that a (expletive)???? Suddenly it’s OK to hang a (expletive) from a tree again,” Colby wrote in an email to McHenry dated Dec. 16, 2010.

Colby was not on the Selectboard at the time of that time.

McHenry said last month that the emails were “out of the blue.” In his reply to Colby he told him he found his remarks “inappropriate” and “offensive to me.” He also reminded Colby that communications with town officials are subject to public records requests.

The town provided the Lakes Region Weekly with copies of the emails Tuesday in response to its Freedom of Access Act request made in December. McHenry also confirmed the emails were authentic last month, but said he no longer had the originals.

Stevens, Frantz and her husband, Tom Jordan, and others were at the Transfer Station collecting signatures Jan. 9.

When Dustin Ward came by to put his name down, he said he was in favor of recalling Colby because “we don’t need people who are making decisions about our town to have bias and racist intent.”

Ward, who is Black, grew up in Presque Isle and moved to New Gloucester five years ago.

“To hear something like that doesn’t make me feel very welcome in my community,” he said.

Not all passers-by were keen to sign, though. One driver said, “I don’t know who George Colby is. If it were (Gov. Janet) Mills, I’d do it.”

Another said that Black Lives Matter flags were racist before driving off.

Another signee, Zark VanZandt, said he is “just appalled by the ignorance in America right now.”

“There’s so much racism going on and it’s just terrible that people still feel it’s OK, it’s so inappropriate.”

The culmination of the petition drive this week comes on the heels of the riots at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, during which five people died, including two Capitol Police officers.

The crowd of mostly White men, many of whom carried Confederate or Trump campaign flags, breached the Capitol on the day Congress was set to certify the Electoral College votes.

Jordan called the riots “an appalling example of what can happen when we do not commit ourselves to seeking out the truth,” and said that “as long as those who reject reality are leaders in our community, we remain hopelessly divided.”

Stevens said that although the events of Jan. 6 were “a stain on American democracy,” the recall petition isn’t “rooted in political party politics. It’s about doing what is right and holding our elected local officials to a higher standard.”

When reached for comment via phone Tuesday afternoon, Colby told the Lakes Region Weekly, “it wouldn’t be a bad thing if you could print the truth.”

When asked for clarification, Colby hung up.

Selectboard Chairperson Karen Gilles could not be reached for comment.

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