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Hope recall vote pushed to June

Ordinance amendment for marijuana cultivation discussion continues
By Daniel Dunkle | Jan 13, 2021

Hope — Citing costs and concerns about safety during the pandemic, the Hope select board voted Jan. 12 to include voting on the recall of a Select Board member and Budget Committee person in the June town election.

Residents submitted petitions with enough signatures to trigger a recall vote to oust Select Board member Bruce Haffner and Budget Committee member Elinor Goldberg.

Haffner’s decision to campaign against the town’s road budget item in the July 14 election and the secretly recorded audio of him saying he would take down town officials including Town Administrator Samantha Mank, prompted the action against him.

Goldberg is quoted in an email obtained by Select Board Chair Sarah Ann Smith essentially planning to oust Mank.

Haffner argues he did not mean his statements in a threatening manner, but was talking about taking the officials down through the political process. He has also been urged to write a letter of apology to Mank.

The recall ordinance calls on the Select Board to hold a special recall election in 30-60 days, but has a provision stating that it can be combined with a regular election if one is anticipated within four months. The Select Board decided it could be held in June in this case.

They noted there was a cost to holding elections and also pointed out that it was better during the pandemic to limit the number of large gatherings such as elections.

Select Board Vice Chair Brian Powers said he did not appreciate Haffner’s comments in the press, referring to Powers’ opinion of the way bids should be handled. He said he has never had a private conversation with Haffner and argued that “public works” has not been a topic on any agenda during his time. He said Haffner should not make up what Powers is thinking, especially in comments to the press.

Haffner responded that Powers had lectured him on how public works is handled best.

Select Board member Thomas Ingraham said he wished they would both “cut it out and move on.”

Fellow member Amy Gertner called for open, honest dialogue, but also for respectful language.

The June voting was set for June 8 by a vote of 4-0, with Haffner abstaining.

The board scheduled a closed-door meeting to discuss Town Administrator Mank’s evaluation and contract for Jan. 26.

The Select Board also discussed the possibility of voting to remove Langley Willauer from his position as Planning Board chair and possibly discussing this in a closed-door meeting.

Willauer, after being fired from his other town position as bookkeeper in August, raised questions about Mank’s performance and the July 14 election votes. The town hired an attorney to investigate the matters, and while the Select Board maintains the attorney’s report is confidential, they say Mank has been exonerated.

Powers said he would need to be given the specific reasons for Willauer’s removal.

Smith said she was concerned about Mank having to work with him for the next four months until his term expires in June.

She said it was a shame, however, due to his institutional knowledge on the Planning Board.

In other business, the board met again with Seth Haskins, who is seeking a change to town ordinances to allow his current medical marijuana cultivation business to change to recreational. Haskins and those he has been working with including Ari Meil have been researching other local town ordinances to help formulate the specifics of the proposal. They do not plan to have a store in Hope. It would mostly simply be changing the terminology from medical to recreational on the existing cultivation operation.

The board plans to continue discussion of this in future meetings. Haskins hopes to have the ordinance change on the town meeting warrant or election in June.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Paul Smith | Jan 14, 2021 14:40

Hi folks, I wanted to clarify one small but important item in the article above.  Earlier today I emailed journalist and editor Dan Dunkle about the use of the word "maintains."  He declined to make any edits, saying he stands by the story as written.  However, I wanted to be sure that the public understands that the Hope Select Board had and has no choice in the matter of releasing information within the inquiry report.  It is considered confidential according to Maine law.  The exchange below explains.  Thanks for reading to be aware of my concern.

From: Sarah Ann Smith …..

Sent: Thursday, January 14, 2021 9:05 AM

To: Dan Dunkle <…….>

 

Subject: Slight correction

 

Dan, in today's article you wrote about postponing the Recall election in Hope--a minor correction that I'd rather raise with directly with you than post a comment online:

 

" The town hired an attorney to investigate the matters, and while the Select Board maintains the attorney’s report is confidential, they say Mank has been exonerated."

 

The Select Board isn't "maintaining" the report is confidential, we have been advised by the Town Attorney that since the report concerns a personnel matter, it is BY LAW confidential and therefore none of the contents can be made public by the Select Board or anyone else. This is not a unilateral decision on the part of the Board; it is observing the letter and spirit of the law.  The use of the word maintain could be inadvertently misleading to your readers.

 

As the Select Board noted in its statement at the conclusion of the inquiry process, although some mistakes were made over the course of the year, largely due to short staffing and lack of training for new employees, there was no cause for discipline.  You can find the exact working in the statement which is posted on the town website under the meeting documents for December--the first of the two meetings.

 

Thanks, Sarah

 

 

And Dan’s reply:

 

Thanks Sarah,

 

I stand by my story and my wording.

 

Daniel Dunkle

News Director

Courier Publications

phone number omitted

 

Note:  this will post under the name Paul Smith (husband) who is the one who subscribed to Village Soup, but it is written and posted by Sarah Ann Smith.



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