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Retired judge raises questions about coming elections

Hope will vote on marijuana ordinance change in June
By Daniel Dunkle | Apr 15, 2021

Hope — Longtime probate judge and former State Senator Susan Longley urged the Hope Select Board April 13 to hold only one town meeting instead of special elections this year and raised questions about whether the board followed the ordinance in calling for the June recall vote.

Longley spoke during the public comment portion of a lengthy Select Board meeting.

She said the town should hold only one “well-organized annual town meeting” on June 22 and save the expense of holding two additional special elections.

A special election is set for April 27 to fill select board vacancies. Two seats are vacant following the resignations of Amy Gertner and Thomas Ingraham.

Running for those seats are Richard Crabtree and Wendy Pelletier, who have both previously served on the board.

There will also be an election on June 8.

Residents will likely vote on several issues in that election including electing a Select Board member. Incumbent Brian Powers did not return nomination papers and Michael Brown is on the ballot for that seat.

Residents will vote on whether to allow currently operating medical marijuana cultivators to sell their products wholesale for recreational rather than medical use (more on that later).

In addition, voters will decide whether to recall Select Board member Bruce Haffner and Budget Committee member Elinor Goldberg.

Longley said the board would not want to hear her opinion on this, but she said the board waited too long to order the recall election, missing the opportunity to proceed with the issue.

She said the town’s new recall ordinance requires the board, after receiving petitions calling for the recall, to order an election at its next meeting. In this case that next meeting was Dec. 22, but the board did not order the election until its next meeting after that (Jan. 12).

Longley argued that delay was in violation of the wording of the ordinance.

She also raised concerns about the way the town was handling the special elections and warned that failure to do everything properly in special elections could bring with it severe criminal penalties. She questioned the absentee ballot process.

“I take no pleasure in pointing these things out,” Longley said.

Town Administrator Samantha Mank said the town would not be mailing out absentee ballots for April 27 due to concerns about them being lost or delayed in the mail. However, people can go to the town office and request absentee ballots there.

Longley had also argued the town should not have an election in June before the town meeting because there was no state ballot this year. Many towns in the area tend to have secret ballot referendum votes within days of the annual town meeting, but most years those coincide with a state June ballot.

Chair Sarah Ann Smith said she would check with the town attorney on the issues. She said that to the best of her knowledge the town had done everything legally.

She added they were trying to be responsible both fiscally and in terms of not bringing people out in February during the pandemic for a vote on the recall.

The board also finalized the plan for the June ballot item to allow local medical marijuana growers to sell their products for recreational use out of town. The plan will not allow any retail marijuana operations in the town of Hope. It is also being called a stopgap, allowing the existing cultivators to do business. A new ordinance dealing with all of this may be drafted in the future.

Seth and Ashley Haskins have been cultivating medical marijuana and they sought the ordinance adjustment. They would sell the products through Botony, a group with a retail operation outside the town.

The Haskins, Ari Meil, and Mark Benjamin of Botony have met with the Select Board and Planning Board.

The specific ordinance changes, allowing for this minor change in the operation from medical to recreational will be available at the town office for review. The June ballot question will ask if residents favor changes to the marijuana ordinance.

There will be a public hearing May 18.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Paul Smith | Apr 16, 2021 21:49

Most people with an above-blood-temperature IQ find it useful to ascertain the facts before posting comments.

Posted by: Elizabeth Dickerson | Apr 16, 2021 12:58

Ok, I can't stand this another minute. You can't NOT issue an absentee ballot by mail just because you think they might get lost in the mail. According to Maine State Statute, the Clerk SHALL immediately issue an absentee ballot and return envelope by MAIL OR IN PERSON....That's what the law says. That's what you have to do. You can't just decide to not send out absentee ballots. The word is SHALL. As in, you will do this.

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