Despite ‘turmoil’ in town, Columbia Falls voters reject recall ordinance

Posted March 19, 2014, at 10:58 a.m.

COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine — Residents handily defeated two controversial items on the town warrant at their annual meeting Tuesday after the chairman of the Board of Selectmen referred to the “turmoil” that has embroiled the community.

At the outset of the meeting, board Chairman Alan Grant mentioned the “turmoil” that has disturbed the town and alluded to some of the measures on the town warrant. The controversies in the town have been costly in terms of productivity of town staff, Grant suggested.

After zipping through 45 items on the town warrant in little more than an hour, residents were asked to vote on a proposed ordinance that would have allowed for the recall of local elected officials. They voted about 2-1 — by a show of hands — to indefinitely postpone the measure, a motion which takes precedence over the actual warrant item, so there was no debate.

Grant and Town Clerk Nancy Bailey joined about 40 other residents to postpone it while the town’s other selectmen, Bernard “Bun” Ward and Jay Look, joined about 20 or more others in the minority.

The proposed ordinance would have allowed for the recall of an elected official except for a school board member. Under the proposed ordinance, the Board of Selectmen could order a recall vote after receiving a petition signed by 10 percent of residents who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election.

Residents dealt similarly with the next item on the town warrant, a measure that would have required all financial transactions of any town committees to be handled by the town treasury. It would have prohibited funds from being held or spent from private committee accounts. The warrant item also was indefinitely postponed.

The vote prompted a question from Pamela Look, the selectman’s wife, who asked what the purpose was of having accounts outside the town treasury.

“No purpose in particular that I know of,” said a somewhat irritated Grant.

The votes on the two town warrant items indicated that residents approve of the status quo, Grant said afterward.

“People are happy with the way things are going,” he said.

Asked to expound on his reference at the outset of the meeting to the “turmoil” that has embroiled the town, Grant alluded to controversies related to a decision by the town to convey its municipal building to Wreaths Across America and the finances of the town’s former recreation committee and other matters. “All the stuff we’ve been going through” in recent years, he said, referring to it as “micro-managing.”

Ward declined comment afterward, and Look was not available.

A divided electorate chose Todd Emerson to fill an open seat on the Board of Selectmen. He defeated Nancy Bagley by a vote of 46-43. Emerson replaced Ward, whose term was expiring.

Emerson declined comment afterward when asked about Grant’s remarks.

Pamela Look initiated Freedom of Access Act requests starting last fall for bank statements of the town’s former recreation committee. The selectmen voted last week to contact a bank to inquire about an account the committee may have had.

Pamela Look was criticized by Treasurer Lenora Weaver during a board meeting in February, and Bailey — Weaver’s daughter — has said the requests for information consumed about 14 hours of her time as town clerk.

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