A woman walks her dog to the polls at the Expo building in Portland in November 2019.

A Gorham woman, Janet Kuech, has asked a court to order the Gorham Town Council to let her take the seat she won in the November election.

The Maine Education Association filed the lawsuit in Maine Superior Court on behalf of Kuech, an educational technician in Gorham schools. The council has refused to seat Kuech, saying that to do so would violate the town charter.

But Kuech’s attorney, Jon Goodman, said the council ignored its own lawyer, who said the town charter prohibits only town officials, not employees, from serving on the council.

“In the face of that, the council said, ‘Well, sorry, we’re not going to do that. We think the law either is — or should be — something different from what our own attorney is telling us,’” Goodman said.

Goodman said Kuech is prepared to avoid any conflicts involving the schools. “Janet’s prepared to step away and recuse herself from situations like that where there might be a conflict if, collectively, the Town Council feels like there’s a particular issue — the budget for instance — that she shouldn’t be voting on.”

But that’s not enough for Gorham Councilor James Hager. He says the drafters of Gorham’s charter did intend to bar all town employees from elective office in the town.

The council has ordered a March 3 vote to fill the council seat. Kuech’s attorney says they’ll ask the court to halt that and seat Kuech.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.