The Windham Town Council, on a tie vote, failed Tuesday to pass a recall ordinance it had proposed to counter a citizens’ referendum on recalls that will be on the November ballot.

In differing from the citizens’ proposal, the council’s proposal increased the number of signatures needed to get a recall on the ballot and added a minimum vote requirement at the polls. Windham currently does not have a process to recall elected officials on the books.

The council scheduled a special meeting and public hearing for Thursday, Aug. 31, after the Lakes Region Weekly deadline, to decide whether to now address the recall issue through an amendment to the town charter.

During a public hearing on the council’s proposal Tuesday, some residents said they felt slighted that the council had written an ordinance in opposition to the one they had successfully petitioned for. Among the petitioners were residents who were active in the recent effort to ban several books from RSU 14 libraries.

“If we push this forth, it will render the people’s ordinance moot,” said Councilor John Henry, who voted against the council’s ordinance. 

The main areas of discrepancy between the citizens’ proposal, which Councilor Jarrod Maxfield calls “extremely flawed,” and the council’s proposed ordinance are in the required percentage of voters needed to sign a recall petition, those required to participate in a recall vote, and whether it is the council or voters who will select an interim council member before the next election, should someone be recalled.


The citizens’ proposed ordinance would require 10% of the number of voters in the last gubernatorial election to sign a petition to get a recall on the ballot, but has no specification on the percentage of voters required to show up and vote on it. The council decided on 15% of gubernatorial participants to get a recall on the ballot and 25% of  gubernatorial voters to cast ballots on it.

The citizens’ ordinance says voters would elect an interim replacement for the elected official who has been recalled, while the town charter says it is the council’s responsibility to select interim replacements.

Another concern the council and town attorney cited about the citizens’ ordinance was a section that states elected officials who have been recalled would not be allowed to hold any town position for the next two years.

“The prohibition from appointing someone is out of spite and revenge,” Maxfield said. He said he aims to “protect the people from having their vote taken away from them by a small minority.”

“This proposal is extremely flawed,” Maxfield said at an Aug. 15 meeting. He pointed out that much of the language was taken directly from the town of Kennebunk’s charter.

“This ordinance was copy and pasted, with some minor changes to make it looser in Windham, from the Kennebunk town charter,” Maxfield said. The Kennebunk charter led to legal dispute over a recall election that many felt had been a targeted attack based on personal and political disagreement, and eventually spurred the town to completely reexamine its charter.


“The people of Kennebunk realized how flawed this was,” Maxfield said. “Kennebunk is (now) proposing 500 signatures to start a recall, which is above what (the council had proposed) … the public deserves to know because they were not told when they were solicited for signatures,” he said.

School board member Jenny Butler, who told the council Aug. 15 that she was speaking as a private citizen and not on behalf of the board, said she has been “targeted” by the petitioners for the ordinance.

“It’s important for me to speak about my experience being targeted by this same group of people calling for a recall ordinance,” she said.

Butler said the vitriol towards her began when she ran for the school board on a platform of following COVID guidelines and snowballed during the board’s discussions on book banning attempts. She said the group has been seeking a way to recall her for some time.

In April, a petition was created by Parents Rights in Education calling for Butler to resign because she had “bullied” the audience at a school board meeting.

Resident Louis Ouellette said when he posted online in opposition to the citizens’ ordinance he “was publicly attacked online, with my home address posted, my wife’s name and a photo of our house, along with threatening comments against me.”


“I’m sorry that happened to you,” said citizens’ ordinance supporter Kathleen March. “Unfortunately, there are often some few of us who use inappropriate actions or inappropriate words.”

Citizens’ ordinance supporters say their efforts stem from their concern for the democratic process and holding elected officials accountable. 

“The bipartisan support is testament to what this town needs and wants,” said Justin Whynot, one drafter of the petition. “You put forth language that favors those who take office,” he said to council. “This puts forth a process in which officials will be held to a standard that the people will hold them to.”

“It’s an item we truly believe that’s needed in Windham to get caught up with other towns,” said Stephen Napolitano, another of the petition’s drafters.

There’s an imbalance of power in this town,” said resident Rebecca Cummings. “We have Town Council and school board comingling in a familiar relationship.”

If the citizens’ recall ordinance is approved by voters, the Town Council will have the opportunity to amend it.

Councilor David Nadeau, who voted in favor of the council’s ordinance, said Tuesday he was disappointed with public discussions about the ordinance, both at that night’s public hearing and at the Aug. 15 council meeting.

“I feel respect has gone down the drain,” he said.

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