KENNEBUNK – Residents interested in a review and revision of Kennebunk’s charter can signal their intent to run for a charter commission by taking out nomination papers starting Aug. 1.

Voters will see two charter-related questions on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The first is to ask voters if they wish to form a charter commission. The second asks voters to elect six people to the nine-member panel. A slate of candidates will appear on the ballot elected in the event the first question is approved.

In addition to the six who are elected, the select board appoints three members; one of the three may be a member.

A charter is a basic document that defines the organization, powers, functions, and essential procedures of the municipal government, according to the National League of Cities.

Kennebunk’s first charter was adopted in 1984. The last charter commission was instituted in June 2007, began its work in September that year, and presented a preliminary report of proposed changes in June 2008, according to John Costin, who chaired the committee. The charter was approved in January 2009 and the new document went into effect July 1 that year.


Town Clerk Merton Brown said Kennebunk’s town meeting has agreed to amendments – which are allowed under state law – eight times since the original document was instituted; the most recent in June when the document was amended to make it gender neutral.

The Kennebunk Select Board voted June 21 to put the question to voters following a vote earlier this year that called for the recall of an elected RSU 21 board member, one of six who represent Kennebunk. The recall was defeated but exposed a lack of process outlined in the charter.

There are other reasons to examine the charter, select board members have said, outlining a lack of process when it comes to town committees, and authorization of the use of legal counsel.

In formal terms, the board’s vote “determine(d) that the revision of the town charter should be considered and the question of the whether a charter commission shall be established for that purpose shall be placed before the voters of the town of Kennebunk at the general election.”

Nomination papers, available starting Aug. 1, are due at the town clerk’s office by end of business Sept. 29. Candidates must present signatures of at least 25 and not more than 100 registered Kennebunk voters to appear on the ballot.

Brown said there have been instances when the vote to establish a charter commission has failed; twice in the last 15 years, he estimated.


Laws governing establishment of charter commissions and procedures are outlined in state statute. Title 30-A, section 2103 notes that candidates run without party designation. The statutes notes that the appointed members need not be residents of the municipality, and that only one of the appointed may be a municipal officer.

If a charter commission is approved, a public meeting to receive information, views comments and other material must be held within 30 days of the organization meeting.

Within nine months, the charter commission is tasked by statute with producing a preliminary report and must submit its final report within 12 months. The municipal officers may extend the time limits for the preparation and submission of preliminary and final reports of the charter commission for up to 24 months after the election of the commission if the extension is necessary to properly complete the reports; have them printed or circulated; or obtain the written opinion of an attorney.

The statutes note the municipality must fund the work of the charter commission.

Kennebunk Finance Director Joel Downs said the select board has adequate funds in the capital contingency account – about $160,000 – to begin the process. The major costs are legal review and clerical expenses.

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