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Turmoil in Hope brings recall petition

Hope Select Board tries to hold emergency meeting to add Nov. 3 ballot items
By Daniel Dunkle | Sep 04, 2020

Hope — A group of 100 residents in Hope signed a petition seeking to place a question on the Nov. 3 ballot to enact a new ordinance that could be used to recall an elected official.

It was announced by email Friday, Sept. 4 that there would be an emergency Select Board meeting to add ballot items for the Nov. 3 election, but Chair Sarah Ann Smith was the only member to attend via Zoom and the meeting had to be called off for lack of a quorum.

The petition reads in part: "We the undersigned registered voters in the Town of Hope, request that a question be placed on the November 3, 2020 ballot, so that the registered voters of Hope may cast a vote by secret ballot, to enact an Ordinance for the Recall of Elected Officials in accordance with Maine statutes..."

Smith said the petition had the required number of signatures and had been confirmed by the town clerk.

A draft of the proposed recall ordinance was attached to the agenda packet for the meeting Friday.

Under the proposal, a group of five residents could bring forth a request to the town office for a petition they could then circulate, seeking signatures to support the removal of the elected official. If they are able to get the required signatures — 10 percent of the last gubernatorial vote in the town or about 96 signatures currently — the recall would then be put to a vote of the town in a special election within 30 to 60 days.

The petition effort likely stems from recent controversy in the town over how best to deal with road work and snow removal. Select Board member Bruce Haffner sent out flyers prior to the July election, which included town meeting items. In these door-to-door flyers, he urged people to vote no on a budget item related to road work to “Save Our Roads."

Some in the town have raised questions and concerns about his approach. Among them is Amy Powers, who released an audio recording, which she said included Haffner discussing putting out flyers and saying at one point that he was going to “take these guys down," referring to Town Administrator Samantha Mank, Select Board Vice Chair Brian Powers and Road Commissioner John Monroe.

The town is forming a committee to look at roads issues, and there has been some debate about whether to create a town public works department. It currently has an elected road commissioner and contracts out much of the needed road work and snow removal.

There have been other recent issues in the town as well.

At the Aug. 25 Select Board meeting, Smith announced that some errors with the town meeting vote counts were made in the July 14 election and said the board and staff are distressed and sorry about this. A citizen of the town brought this to the attention of the board Aug. 11.

Another recent source of controversy came after Mank fired bookkeeper Langley Willauer on Aug. 7. He submitted a lengthy written statement about the situation to the Select Board at its Aug. 11 meeting, including discussion of the July 14 election.

In addition to dealing with the petition, the Select Board was supposed to act on putting two items on the November ballot, one being $2,000 for equipment to livestream Select Board meetings at the town office, and the other to bring back the proposed town dog ordinance for the voters.

Smith said she had been communicating with other board members via email, one at a time, and could come to a consensus on some of these items, but the issues would also be dealt with in the next Select Board meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. She noted part of the difficulty in getting members together for the emergency meeting Friday was that it was Labor Day Weekend.

Timing was critical. Mank said the ballots needed to be ordered by Friday for ballots that could be machine-counted.

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