Newburgh to hold special election in January to fill selectman’s seat

Posted Nov. 21, 2011, at 8:03 p.m.

NEWBURGH, Maine — In the wake of Michael Burns’ resignation from the Board of Selectmen, the town will hold a special election to fill his seat.

The remaining two selectmen voted Thursday night to hold a town election on Wednesday, Jan. 4, to fill the vacant position. There also will be three citizens’ petitions on the ballot that aim to overturn articles passed last March.

“I feel as though that, where we have an open seat, I think we should jump right on this,” said Selectman Craig Toothaker.

Nomination papers for the seat will be made available on Thursday, Dec. 1, with a filing deadline of Thursday, Dec. 16.

Three of the articles passed during elections last March will be on the ballot again in January — but this time voters will decide whether to reverse them.

The first item on the ballot would have the town go from having five selectmen back to three. Two selectmen will be elected to one-year terms during the March election.

In addition, voters again can opt to have a town manager instead of the selectmen-administrative assistant form of government adopted in last year’s vote.

Both articles approved last year don’t take effect until March. The vote in January on the two articles won’t go into effect until 2013.

“They’re reversing what we voted on last year,” said Steve Burgess, chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

A public hearing will be held at at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15, to discuss the third article on the ballot — an ordinance that would allow the recall of town officials. A selectmen’s meeting will be held after the hearing.

Because it is an ordinance, it would take effect immediately after the election, said Town Manager Warren Hatch.

Finding a third selectman was important to Burgess and Toothaker. They wanted to fill the third selectman’s seat before the usual elections in March.

“One of the new people will be on the board for at least a couple of months before we bring in [two or] three more people,” said Toothaker. “[We’re] trying to get someone at least up and running [before the March election].”

Burns’ vacant second selectman position is a two-year term.

In March, two new selectman’s positions will be voted on, both one-year terms. Toothaker’s seat, which is a three-year position, also will be on the ballot.

Both Burgess and Toothaker voted to accept Burns’ resignation letter, but they didn’t like what it had to say. Burns didn’t attend the meeting.

“I’m not happy with what he said and I don’t agree with it,” said Burgess.

“I don’t agree with it either,” said Toothaker.

In the letter, Burns said the other selectmen made threats and made him feel as though he couldn’t be trusted.

“I will not lower my standards and become part of the harassment and threats made by the remaining two selectmen on this board,” Burns said in the letter. “The way that they are conducting business is detrimental to the Town of Newburgh and I will not be a part of it.”

Burgess said he was surprised by Burns’ resignation, but he saw clues.

“He turned his keys in about a month ago,” said Burgess. “And I figure, if you turn your keys in, a resignation’s coming, but he kept coming to the meetings.”

Burns was elected as the second selectman during the March elections while Burgess and Toothaker were elected during a special election in April after the other two selectmen resigned.

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