Van Buren councilors’ removal fair, residents say

Posted Nov. 20, 2009, at 9:48 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:38 a.m.

VAN BUREN, Maine — A group of petitioners who successfully sparked a recall election that resulted in the removal of three town councilors stood by the petition process, despite its being challenged by the councilors.

“It was a fair process,” James Thibodeau, one of the petitioners, said Friday. “These three do not deserve their seats. They have run the town the way they want to for years. It’s over. The taxpayers have spoken.”

In a special recall election on Nov. 13, residents voted to remove councilors Bob Learnard (by a tally of 444-107 to remove), Mike Bresett (436-115) and Don Dumond (427-127). Councilors Gary Levesque and Alyre Levesque remained at their posts. The election came after the council voted to terminate Town Manager Thomas “Randy” Cannon in late October.

Thibodeau and Betty Levesque, another petitioner, contend they decided to circulate the petition in September after the three councilors voted in a manner that went against the town’s wastewater provisions.

Thibodeau said that a homeowner needed to replace a pipe from the home to the town water main and that the three councilors decided the town should pay for it instead of the homeowner.

“That is against the rules,” Thibodeau said.

He acknowledged that he and other petitioners also had “many other issues” with the trio. But both Thibodeau and Levesque disputed claims that the three were voted out of office because they voted in October to terminate Cannon.

“We took the petition out in September and Cannon was not let go until October,” said Thibodeau.

Levesque supported Thibodeau’s contention.

Learnard, who was chairman of the council, said earlier this week that the three councilors believe they were removed from office unfairly and are going to court in an effort to have the election results voided.

He acknowledged the wastewater issue, but said he and fellow councilors did nothing improper.

Dumond and Bresett could not be reached for comment Friday.

Thibodeau pointed out that “80 percent of the people who voted” in the recall election voted to remove the three councilors.

“It is true that it is not just the wastewater issue,” he said. “Many people have issues with these councilors and do not feel that they have listened to the people and what they want. They were not doing what the people of Van Buren wanted. But the petition process was legal.”

The ousted councilors disagree, and questions about the process have been raised by the Maine Municipal Association. Linda Anne Cyr, who has been interim town manager for about a month, said earlier this week that the town consulted the association about the situation. The municipal association suggested that the petitions could be “legally defective” and added that the town should seek legal counsel.

Unless a court ruling prevents it, the town will hold elections to find three new councilors on Dec. 11. The search also has begun for a new manager.

Thibodeau entertained the idea that if the election is deemed illegal, a judge could order a new one.

Even then, he said Friday, he does not think the three councilors would get elected again.

“No way,” he said. “There is no way they would get back in.”

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