A Gorham school employee who won a Town Council seat in last week’s election and then was barred from taking her seat by that body said she will take the town to federal court.
The Gorham Town Council voted not to seat Janet Kuech in a 4-3 vote on Tuesday after she won an open Town Council seat last week, saying she qualifies as a town employee under Gorham’s charter and therefore cannot serve.
The decision could be an expensive one. It triggers a special election within 90 days and leaves a seat on the council vacant, and an attorney hired by the Maine Education Association, a teachers’ union, said Wednesday he plans to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court next week.
A similar conversation is happening in Yarmouth, currently embroiled in a federal lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and residents over a charter amendment passed last November prohibiting municipal or school employees from being elected to town council.
Attorney Jonathan Goodman of Portland-based Troubh Heisler said the council is infringing on Kuech’s constitutional right to serve in public office and her right to hold a job. He argued a candidate’s position with a town should be weighed against the impact they could have on town operations and said Kuech could recuse herself from anything affecting school business.
“I don’t know how they think one of me on a group of seven people can unduly influence a bond vote or a budget,” Kuech said.