VAN BUREN, Maine — Three town councilors who believe they were unfairly removed from office during a recall election on Nov. 13 are going to court in an effort to have the election results voided.
“It was unfair,” Bob Learnard, chairman of the council and one of the three recalled, said Wednesday evening. “All three of us are going to court. They took us out of office illegally. Why would we want to give up seats when they were taken from us illegally?”
Learnard maintains that the controversy started after the councilors voted to terminate Town Manager Thomas “Randy” Cannon in late October. Cannon had been on the job for more than a year. Learnard said councilors had several problems with Cannon and moved to terminate him after he reportedly had a dispute with councilors and walked out of an October meeting.
“In my mind, he walked off the job,” Learnard said. “We gave him a fair hearing. We placed him on administrative leave and heard from him and his attorney at a hearing before the vote to terminate. I believe he was terminated fairly.”
Neither Cannon nor any of the other councilors could be reached for comment Wednesday.
The town has had five managers in the past two years.
Learnard said that after Cannon’s dismissal, a group of community members circulated a petition asking for a recall election. During the election, residents voted by a wide margin to remove Learnard, Councilor Mike Bresett and Councilor Don Dumond. Councilors Gary Levesque and Alyre Levesque remain at their posts.
Linda Anne Cyr, the town’s interim manager, has been on the job less than a month and was not at the helm when the petition was being circulated.
She acknowledged that the three councilors were fighting the election results.
“I cautioned the remaining two councilors that there might be litigation,” she said Wednesday. “I was hoping to avoid it because of the cost and the time it will take.”
Cyr said the Maine Municipal Association, consulted by the town about the situation, suggested that the petitions could be “legally defective” and that the town seek legal counsel.
Cyr said that unless a court ruling prevents it, the town will hold elections to find three new councilors next month.
The search also has begun for a new manager.
Cyr said she has no plans to make her interim position permanent.
All three of the recalled councilors have significant public service experience, according to Cyr. Learnard said Wednesday he has 37 years of service on the council and the local school board.
Despite the controversy, Cyr said, there is “still a good bunch of people working in this town.”
“We have big issues on the table but we have very genuine people here trying to move the town forward,” she said. “We don’t have five councilors on board, which makes things more difficult, but the town is still functioning.”
A date for next month’s elections has not yet been set.