Warrant article on November ballot would allow voters to recall selectmen in Berwick

Posted Sept. 21, 2011, at 1:56 p.m.

BERWICK, Maine — The Board of Selectmen reviewed and signed a series of articles to be placed on a special town meeting warrant for a Nov. 8 election date, including an ordinance that would, if enacted, allow voters to recall members of the Board of Selectmen.

The recall ordinance article was approved in a unanimous vote by the Board to be placed on the special town meeting warrant. The ordinance sets out a series of steps, including petitioning, in order for the townspeople to elect to recall a member of the Board of Selectmen. The ordinance approved for the vote is almost identical to the recall ordinance defeated by Berwick residents in 2007, with the exception of some date changes.

Another recall ordinance was presented to the Board by a petition vote in order to force the question onto the special town meeting warrant. This ordinance, adopted from a similar recall ordinance as accepted by voters in Paris, Maine, was ultimately defeated by the Board in response to the Town Attorney Alan Sheppard’s legal opinion that the document was invalid and contained illegal language.

In a confidential letter written by Sheppard to the Board, which was made public by a unanimous Board vote, Sheppard stated that among the main concerns in the petitioned recall ordinance is the ability to recall “appointed officials” along with elected officials. According to Sheppard, this inclusion violates Maine state law as “appointed officials” include town employees such as the town manager and the code enforcement officer, who are appointed to their positions by the Board rather than through a town election.

Ultimately he felt that because of the inclusion of “appointed officials,” the ordinance petitioned by 235 Berwick residents could not be approved for the special town meeting warrant. However, many members of the Board, including Town Manager Keith Trefethen, encouraged the acceptance of another ordinance to be placed on the Nov. 8 warrant that contained the correct legal language.

The other warrant articles that were approved for the Nov. 8 special town meeting warrant include:

• “To amend the Berwick Land Use Ordinance under section 2.2 Definitions with regard to Outdoor Storage.”

• “To amend the Berwick Land Use Ordinance to change section 4.1, Classes of Districts by adding Urban Overlay District to this section.”

• “To amend the Berwick Land Use Ordinance to change section 5.3 Mixed Use discussing the Urban Overlay District.”

• “To amend the Berwick Land Use Ordinance under section 6.2 Land Use District Regulation Table allowing specific businesses along Route 9.”

• “A vote to accept a dedication of land for highway purposes, pursuant to 23 MRSA 3025, made by Heritage Woods, LLC and Heritage Woods reality, LLC of a title in fee simple of Dobson Road so called and to accept Dobson Road as a Town Way.”

© 2011 the Foster’s Daily Democrat

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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