Byron selectman resigns after mandatory gun possession vote causes controversy

Posted March 30, 2013, at 6:19 a.m.

BYRON, Maine — Selectman Patrick Knapp-Veilleux resigned Friday night, citing personal reasons and the discord over a town vote against mandatory firearms possession that resulted in a petition to recall Head Selectman Anne Simmons-Edmunds.

“I regret to inform you that I must resign my position as selectman immediately,” Knapp-Veilleux read from his letter at the special board meeting, which he had requested.

The resignation surprised Simmons-Edmunds, who was the only other board member there. David Noyes could not attend.

“Until tonight, I had no idea what was going on,” Simmons-Edmunds said before accepting the resignation.

Knapp-Veilleux seemed surprised, also.

“I didn’t realize this was going to turn into a town meeting,” Knapp-Veilleux said. “It was supposed to be a special meeting for the selectmen.”

All selectmen’s meetings are public, according to state law, and about half a dozen residents attended Friday’s meeting.

“To my knowledge, I have not been disliked by anyone in this town,” Knapp-Veilleux read. “My eyes were opened the other day. I did not pick and choose sides when the majority of voters trusted me with this position, and I will not start now. This comes at a time that I am needed at home more now, anyway.”

He thanked residents “for your patience with me and for the experience in small-town government. I hope in some small way that I was of help to the selectmen and the town.”

One resident said, “Pat, I want you to know I do not doubt your integrity. It saddens me that you will be leaving the office. I’d like for you to give it prayerful thought. The town needs you.”

Knapp-Veilleux’s resignation comes nearly three weeks after residents overwhelmingly voted against a mandatory firearms possession article at the annual town meeting.

Shortly after the town meeting, resident Robert P. Bourassa submitted a recall petition targeting Simmons-Edmunds, saying she subjected residents to ridicule, embarrassment and disrepute; failed to inform voters of a state law that would have voided the firearm ordinance, if passed; and mislead voters regarding a newspaper story about her by telling them she was misquoted.

A day after the petition was submitted, Knapp-Veilleux called it “ridiculous.”

“I think that the person who submitted the petition to remove Anne from office has a beef with her, and what’s personal should remain personal,” he said. “I don’t know the exact reasoning behind it, but I think that this issue should stay personal and leave the town out of it. Byron doesn’t need another scandal.”

He later added that he didn’t understand why Simmons-Edmunds was being singled out when he and Selectman David Noyes voted to put the firearms ordinance on the warrant as well.

Shortly before Friday’s meeting ended, Knapp-Veilleux offered some parting words to residents.

“I do not want to leave here upsetting a lot of people,” he said, “and suddenly have to drive past people and not be able to look or wave as I drive by because they’re not happy with me. That wasn’t how it was when I started this job. To whoever takes the position: good luck.”

Noyes said earlier this week that he understood Friday’s meeting was to take the place of one scheduled for April 4, but that meeting will go on as planned.

 

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