ROCKLAND, Maine — The City Council here swore in two new members Monday evening — including one whose seat is still being disputed.
Will Clayton and Frank Isganitis were seated, although Isganitis’ tenure could be short if an unofficial count by his opponent is confirmed.
Former council candidate Larry Pritchett lost to Isganitis by three votes in this month’s election, according to the official vote count. On Monday, Pritchett, attorney Dan Billings and Billings’ assistant — supervised by the town clerk — conducted an informal recount of the thousands of ballots and declared that Pritchett had won by six votes.
“What we saw today is exactly why we do this — the machine missed a few ballots,” Pritchett said as he sat in the Rockland City Council Chambers Monday afternoon.
Pritchett said the discrepancy likely comes from ballot arrows that were filled in too lightly.
“The machine needs a lot of graphite,” he said.
Because the count was unofficial, it did not directly change the city council seatings, but Pritchett has filed a formal request for a recount, which will be done Monday night at 6 p.m. during a special city council meeting. If the results are in Pritchett’s favor, Isganitis will be removed from his city council seat and Pritchett will be sworn in.
“It’s not a result — it’s an interpretation,” Isganitis said of the Pritchett’s tally. “The official result will drive the outcome.”
Before Monday’s official recount, the town clerk will choose five impartial people to count the ballots and report the result.
According to city clerk Stuart Sylvester, the city consulted with Maine Municipal Association, which advised that the city swear in the two men who won their seats and to make any necessary changes later.
Isganitis secured his victory 1,131 to 1,128, but Pritchett’s unofficial count was 1,139 for Pritchett and 1,133 for Isganitis.
Also at Monday night’s meeting, the council elected a new mayor. Brian Harden won four of the five votes. In a short speech, he addressed issues the new councilmen will face in their first terms.
“I know that were entering a bit of a different time in Maine. We lost $300,000 in revenue sharing last year because the Legislature couldn’t afford to provide it for us. We made budget cuts we didn’t want to make. We might have to continue to go in that direction,” he said. “We could lose more. We have to look at each department with what is necessary as well as what the citizens want and what we think they have to have. Public safety is very important to us, but even that is going to have to be studied.”
Harden said his goal is to help the council work together to think creatively about budgeting.