June 18, 2018
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Old Orchard Beach residents launch effort to recall councilors who voted to fire town manager

By Liz Gotthelf, Journal Tribune

OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — A local effort to recall four town council members has begun.

The seven-member recall committee is seeking to recall town council Chairwoman Sharri MacDonald, Vice Chairwoman Laura Bolduc and Councilors Linda Mailhot and Dana Furtado. The four members of the council voted last week to terminate Town Manager Mark Pearson, effective April 3, and put him on paid administrative leave in the interim.

According to the town charter, any seven qualified voters can begin at any time proceedings to recall a town councilor by submitting a written request to the town clerk for petition forms. The seven members will be referred to as “the Recall Committee” and will have 30 days to gather a number of signatures that is at least equal to 20 percent of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

A prepared statement from the recall committee describes it as a “true cross-section of Old Orchard Beach,” composed of two Republicans, three Democrats and two independents. Upon certification of the petitions, the town council will have 45 days to submit the recall question to voters.

“We’re all different people, we’re just frustrated with what we’re seeing,” said committee member David Francoeur in a phone interview this morning.

He said the members of the group connected at town council meetings and discovered common goals.

Other members of the recall committee are Anne Langlois, John Girard, James Duclos, Tom Gillis, Marc Guimont and Phil Follansbee.

According to the statement, the committee wants to see the town’s elected officials represent the residents and not a hidden agenda; does not want the town council to fire a town manager without cause; and wants the councilors to answer questions and not work in secret behind closed doors.

Francoeur said the group would like to see Pearson back as town manager, because he was “doing a good job.” Francoeur said it will cost the town a lot of money if Pearson does not get reinstated, as his attorney has said he will sue on Pearson’s behalf.

Francoeur handed in the recall paperwork yesterday at town hall, and was able to get initial signatures from residents he ran into while at town hall.

MacDonald, in a phone interview this morning, said, “People are upset, I understand.”

She said she hopes if people have concerns, they will come speak with her.

“I believe that recalls lead to more divisiveness,” she said.

MacDonald said she wants to hear from residents and discuss the issues. Town council meetings are not always the right forum to have these conversations, and she is holding forums for residents to speak with her. The first one will be tonight from 5 to 7 p.m. at The Brunswick, and others will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday at town council chambers and again at Alouette Beach Cafe from 8 to 10 a.m. Friday.

The town is currently seeking applications for an interim town manager. People who have been suggested as possible candidates, during Tuesday’s emergency town council meeting, include former state legislator George Kerr, local resident Gilbert Turner, Dunegrass County Club owner Domenic Pugliares, former Westbrook Superintendent of Schools Reza Neman, former town manager Jack Turcotte, Police Chief Dana Kelley and Pearson, said MacDonald.

The town council Tuesday night appointed finance director Diana Asanza to do payroll duties and pay vendors during the absence of a town manager. The assistant town manager is currently on medical leave, said MacDonald.

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