KENNEBUNK – Petitioners gathering signatures to trigger a recall vote of two Regional School Unit 21 board members – Tim Stentiford and Chair Arthur LeBlanc – have succeeded in one case but fell short in another.

Results of two petition drives by a group headed by Kennebunk resident Norman Archer were released by the town of Kennebunk the morning of Thursday, Jan. 6. They show that those seeking to oust LeBlanc gathered 664 valid signatures of registered Kennebunk voters – one short of the 665 required. A total of 692 signatures had been presented, but 28 of them were deemed invalid, according to the news release.

There were 668 valid signatures – three more than required – on the petition to recall Stentiford, whose term expires in June. A total of 697 signatures were presented, but 29 were deemed invalid.

There is a five-day period whereby anyone can issue a legal challenge on the signatures, Town Clerk Merton Brown said by phone Thursday morning. He said the challenge period ends at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 10.

Whether a recall vote will actually take place is unclear. The RSU 21 Board of Directors on Jan. 3 voted to “authorize Russell Pierce, Jr. of Norman, Hanson and DeTroy, to pursue legal action to enjoin the town of Kennebunk recall process currently underway and clarify recall procedures for Regional School Unit 21.”

Pierce, by email Jan. 4, said the vote by the RSU 21 board means he will seek an injunction against the town of Kennebunk regarding the recall process.

According to Pierce’s 10-page legal opinion, RSU 21 school board members are “elected directors of a separate body politic,” with election terms and determined by specifics outlined in Maine Statute 20-A. He said school board directors are elected officials of the regional school unit, not of the municipality, and pointed out that Kennebunk’s charter does not express that its general recall provisions apply to school board directors.

Archer formally initiated the recall on Nov. 29 by presenting affidavits signed by 25 registered Kennebunk voters outlining reasons they believed LeBlanc and Stentiford should be recalled, and petitions were issued as outlined in section 7.02 of the Town Charter.

The affidavits cited an array of alleged missteps involving contract negotiations, the departure of some key staff from the district, the manner in which petitioners believed parents and teachers were treated by the board, and what they described as escalated administrative spending.

The date completed petitions were required to be turned in to the town clerk had been set as 4:30 p.m. Dec. 30, but the date was called into question by Archer. Brown said he then consulted with town attorney Natalie Burns, who in turn consulted the Town Charter, and that he was then told by Burns to extend the deadline to Dec. 31.

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