June 25, 2018
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Hampden council meeting turns testy over election

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

HAMPDEN, Maine — Peace on Earth and good will toward men — and women — were in short supply six days before Christmas at Monday’s regular meeting of the Town Council.

Frustration by several residents over what they perceive as a flawed Nov. 8 election, in which it was officially determined that five people received ballots that weren’t the right ones for the districts they lived in, spilled over into the council.

Residents expressed concerns but Town Attorney Thomas Russell confirmed that the election results were official and that state officials have agreed that there are no further actions to take after a council seat election recount Nov. 28.

The subject that took up most of the first 90 minutes of the three-hour meeting was summed up by Councilor Andre Cushing, who said he consulted with Maine Attorney General William Schneider and other legal sources.

“There is not an opportunity for us to request a new election under state law and statues,” said Cushing, who also serves as representative in the Maine Legislature and assistant majority leader.

Councilor Kristen Hornbrook said she was confused and frustrated, as she imagined some of the voters must be.

“Is there any statute forbidding us from holding a new election?” Hornbrook asked.

Russell said there were none that he knows of. When Hornbrook said, “So we can have one?” Russell said, “That’s your terminology, not mine.”

Councilor and Mayor Janet Hughes suggested reviewing town election procedures, including the four-district voting system, and looking into revising them.

“We need to try and make this process more bulletproof,” Hughes said. “It’s too bad that this happened, but we can’t do any more than consult our attorney.”

In another hot-button Hampden issue, councilors voted 6-1 in favor of directing the Citizens’ Comprehensive Plan Committee to hold a public hearing, as state statute requires, before holding a workshop between the committee and the full council. The hearing is necessary before the revisions made by the committee can be considered by the Planning Board.

Hughes also gave an update on the search for a replacement for outgoing Town Manager Susan Lessard, who announced her resignation in August.

Councilors set up meetings with six candidates from a large field of town manager applicants. After two pulled out of consideration, the remaining four were interviewed. Three of them were asked to come back for second interviews this week and two have been scheduled.

Lessard has offered to stay on in a limited capacity to help facilitate the transition beyond her official resignation, which takes effect after Dec. 31.

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