DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Selectmen voted Monday to obtain a third legal opinion when they found themselves faced with two conflicting opinions on a proposal to amend the town’s charter to elect a town manager and town clerk.
Town Attorney Erik Stumpfel believes the proposal to amend the town’s charter, as recently petitioned by about 400 residents, is an amendment and should be presented for action at the next municipal election. On the other hand, attorney Richard Flewelling of the Maine Municipal Association, whose opinion was solicited by Stumpfel, believes the proposal constitutes a charter revision. The latter would necessitate the formation of a charter commission.
“I find it interesting we have two different opinions,” board Chairman Elwood Edgerly said Monday, before suggesting another opinion might be needed to settle the matter. “I’d like to make sure we get this right.”
Selectman Joyce Perry said she thought it was pretty clear from Stumpfel that the petition request constituted an amendment and should be forwarded to voters. She reminded the board that it had not asked for a second legal opinion when a citizens initiative was presented in 2006 for a secret-ballot referendum.
From that earlier initiative, a charter commission was formed and a new charter was developed and approved.
Tom Brown, chairman of that earlier commission, told selectmen Monday the committee had worked hard to develop a document that was subsequently approved by the voters. He said the committee, during its deliberations, did not want to politicize the offices of town manager and town clerk, who he said should not be out “shaking hands and kissing babies.”
If the matter is presented as a town meeting vote and voters choose to elect a town manager, it will be a first for the state, Mike Starn, a MMA spokesman said earlier this month. The position would then become more like a mayor, he told the Bangor Daily News.
With such an open election process, resident Dennis Lyford questioned whether the town would get the pool of candidates it has had from past searches. “I feel this is not a very well thoughtout proposal,” he said.
Resident John Battick agreed. He said he didn’t think too many candidates would like to be publicly grilled over what they previously did for work. “I think we’re asking the impossible of professionals,” he said. Such a move, he said, would make it a popularity contest.
“I think the present system had worked very well,” resident Richard Swett said. He said the town has an excellent and professional town manager. He saw the town as no different than Mayo Regional Hospital, which has a chief executive officer, and SAD 68, which has a superintendent, both of which are hired by their boards.
In another matter, selectmen signed a resolution Monday to discourage the feeding of deer in the residential and urban areas of town. That resolution was prompted by complaints last year that deer were damaging crops and shrubs.
Town Manager Jack Clukey said the resolution is not an ordinance so it does not make deer feeding in residential areas illegal. What it does do, he said, is send a message that any feeding of deer, if it should occur, should be done in their natural wintering habitats. The location of these deer yards are recorded in the town office.