SANGERVILLE, Maine — A Sangerville resident has been gathering signatures for a petition to force the town to add a code of ethics ordinance to next year’s annual town meeting warrant.
Rick Dobson said “129 out of 140 people” that he has personally discussed the ordinance with are in favor of it.
But Dobson said at a recent Board of Selectmen’s meeting that Selectman Melissa Randall was “deceiving the public in her campaign to stop this ordinance from getting to the public to vote on … and interfering with my legal right of freely circulating a petition.”
In a widely circulated email, Randall said, in part, that the “selectboard asked the gentleman passing the ordinance to be patient and let us work it out. We have several more pressing issues in front of us. … Please allow the selectboard to do its work, and don’t support efforts to set agendas for the board that are illegal, redundant and ill-conceived.”
Dobson read his statement at the beginning of the meeting, and Randall did not respond to the charges directly. Later in the session, however, she outlined the reasons why she preferred that the Board of Selectmen enact a code of ethics policy, rather than have the townspeople pass it as an ordinance.
“I think having a Sangerville code of ethics policy is a good idea,” Randall said, citing some discussion last summer over what constituted a conflict of interest among public officials. “The Maine Municipal Association says that it should be enacted as a policy, so it can be updated as state law changes and you don’t have to take it back to a town meeting.”
Randall cited existing policies in other communities where the code of ethics applies to all elected and appointed town officials, boards, committees and even volunteers.
Dobson’s petition also included a recall provision for public officials, but Randall said that the law is already on the books. However, a town official can be recalled from office “only if the official is convicted of a crime, the conduct of which occurred during the official’s term of office and the victim of which is the municipality.”
But Dobson said that his proposed ordinance “has been in process for months” and that he objected to Randall “coming in here trying to put in a code of ethics policy.” Dobson added that a small town such as Sangerville “doesn’t need a Bangor or Bucksport type of ordinance either. … We need an ordinance ‘by the people and for the people’ and not ‘by the selectmen and for the selectmen.’”
The board decided to table the issue for further study.