Kennebunkport selectmen recently voted to hire a lawyer to defend its ordinances against a civil complaint filed by RSU 21. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNKPORT – The Kennebunkport Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to hire legal counsel after being named as a party-in-interest to a civil complaint recently launched by Regional School Unit 21.

The complaint names the town of Kennebunk as defendant; Kennebunkport and Arundel are also members of the school district and were named as parties-in-interest. The civil suit claims a citizens recall action against two Kennebunk school board members does not fall under the town’s authority.

The board took the action to defend its administrative code, commonly referred to as the town ordinances, on Jan. 13.

Kennebunkport Town Manager Laurie Smith told the selectmen that Kennebunkport is involved because the plaintiffs are looking to have any action the court takes apply to all of the member municipalities.

“The opinion the board received (is) our ordinance does allow for a recall of any elected official, and so if they are successful, it could impact our ordinance and the ability to have a recall election,” said Smith.

“So, we have to be careful about having that opportunity taken away from us,” said board chair Sheila Matthews-Bull.


“We need to defend our ordinances,” said selectman Allen Daggett.

“I move we hire counsel to defend the town and its ordinances,” said selectman Ed Hutchins. “If we allow it to go unchallenged, we will forfeit any rights we have in the future; while we currently have no recalls or anything in the works, we certainly need to protect our interests as a community both today and in the future.”

Selectman Michael Weston seconded the motion.

“Frankly, I find this to be very upsetting and a very dangerous precedent where a board that is elected to spend the money to educate our children is now taking it upon itself to spend part of that money to fight the three communities that sent them there,” Hutchins said.

“And not only that, they’re trying not to have any accountability,” said Daggett.

“They’re trying to usurp our authority, that’s what they’re trying to do,” said Hutchins, later clarifying to say he meant the authority of Kennebunkport voters.

The Kennebunk recall was launched by a group of individuals led by resident Norman Archer. Results issued by Kennebunk Town Clerk Merton Brown show the petition to force a recall vote against RSU 21 board member Tim Stentiford passed the threshold by three votes; the quest to force a recall against board chair Art LeBlanc fell short by one vote. Challenges to the Stentiford petition have been filed and exceed 2,000, said Brown. Stentiford’s term expires in June.

The RSU 21 board issued a public statement upon filing the complaint, which asks the court to issue a preliminary injunction against the town of Kennebunk and for declaratory judgment in the school district’s favor. The district claims statements made in the affidavits used to secure signatures were “provably false, unsupported, and subjective; therefore, those who signed the recall petition were misled about what they were signing.”

The statement went on to assert that Kennebunk’s municipal charter cannot legally be applied because board members are elected by their town of residence, but serve the entire regional school unit.

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