ELLSWORTH, Maine — Two months have passed since Councilor Matthew Boucher attended a meeting of the city’s legislative body.
At that time, according to Council Chairman Gary Fortier, Boucher told Fortier that he had accepted a promotion from his employer, T.J. Maxx, that would require him to relocate to North Conway, N.H. Fortier said he told the one-term councilor to tender his resignation, as a formality.
By Monday night, the resignation hadn’t come, forcing Fortier to push a vote to declare Boucher’s seat vacant for reasons of “ineligibility” and “abandonment.”
“We have not received any written notification from him, so in accordance with our city charter, I’d ask the council to determine that his seat is vacant,” Fortier said. “He knows this is going on tonight. He had the opportunity to be here and speak, and he’s chosen not to.”
Boucher’s brother, Councilor Michael Boucher, said his brother has been out of Ellsworth for two months. In his sibling’s defense, he told the council that his absent brother had sent a resignation letter, but for some reason it wasn’t received. He claimed to have a copy of the letter in his email, but admitted it was “a little too late for that.”
Fortier said he would accept the resignation letter when it was received by the city clerk, but pushed to declare the seat vacant anyway.
“I have an email address, too,” he said. “He could’ve just as soon sent it to me, or the city manager or the city clerk, as I asked him to do through numerous phone calls and emails.”
The end result would have been the same even if Boucher had submitted the resignation months ago. The difference, Fortier said, is that his seat would have been declared vacant by way of resignation, rather than ineligibility and abandonment.
“I’m thankful for what service he could give the city, when he did,” Fortier said.
The order passed 5-0, with Michael Boucher abstaining. Boucher would have been up for re-election after his first term ended in November. Nomination papers for his seat are available at City Hall.
In other business, councilors unanimously approved a loan for up to $1.46 million from the Maine Municipal Bank State Revolving Fund for additional improvements to the city’s new wastewater treatment facility.
City Manager Michelle Beal said the city isn’t spending any more money on the plant than it planned for, but that federal funding had fallen through unexpectedly. The municipal loan will bridge the gap, she said.
“We’re not asking for any more than we’ve ever asked for before,” she told councilors. “We’re just changing where the money is coming from.”
The council also elected to take civil action against 66 businesses who have failed to pay personal property tax bills ranging from $20 to $1,543. An attorney hired for the city will send notices to each taxpayer of Ellsworth’s intention to file for payment in Small Claims Court.
Lastly, the city approved contracting R.F. Jordan and Sons of Ellsworth for mineral screening needed to provide the city with sand during the coming winter and the allocation of $135,000 from the Local Roads Capital Improvement fund to pay for improvements needed on six city streets.
In an email sent after this story was originally published, former Ellsworth Councilor Matthew Boucher gave this comment:
“I gave my resignation to the whole council two months ago verbally, and Chairman [Gary] Fortier did not make it seem like the letter was a big deal. Not to mention I was under the impression I had sent it. Calling a seat vacated that has already been resigned from is just ridiculous and petty on the chairman’s part. I love Ellsworth. It will always be my home.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.