PERU — Two women have filed suit against the town and Selectman Kathy Hussey to try to force Hussey out of office before her term expires in 2014.
Hussey has also served Peru for about 12 years as the Board of Selectmen's secretary.
In the suit, Martha Witherell and Dawna Kazregis allege that Hussey abused her position as the selectmen's secretary:
* By limiting the presentation of agenda items and petitions that Witherell and Kazregis presented to the board.
* By instructing the town's assessor "to repeatedly and without cause" invade Witherell's "privacy to perform unnecessary and repetitive assessments of her real property by wielding the power of the Board of Selectmen to do so."
The lawsuit was filed Nov. 1 in Oxford County Superior Court in Paris by lawyer Justin W. Andrus of Shankman & Associates of Lewiston.
It says Witherell and Kazregis are suing the town and Hussey, "because they have suffered specific and individualized harm" due to the town's failure to prevent Hussey from serving as both a selectman and board secretary.
The suit claims that Witherell and Kazregis have unsuccessfully sought relief from the Board of Selectmen by attending weekly meetings.
They also sought remedy through the legislative process by presenting a petition to Peru residents that would prevent someone from serving the town as both a selectman and as a selectmen's secretary.
That ordinance was approved at town meeting in June, the suit states. However, the town allowed Hussey to remain employed and in office.
Witherell and Kazregis claim that Hussey's continued employment as secretary violates a state law that forbids municipal officers from being appointed to any civil office for profit or town job for which town officials increased the officer's wages.
In June, selectmen approved a wage hike for the selectmen's secretary position.
Witherell and Kazregis have asked the court:
* To find that Hussey is ineligble to serve as secretary and selectman.
* And to require Peru to hold a special election to fill the vacated seat on the Peru Board of Selectmen, together with an award of reasonable attorney fees, costs and other such relief.
Witherell declined comment on Tuesday. Calls on Tuesday and Wednesday to Hussey and Kazregis were not returned.
However, in an unpublished letter to the editor of the Sun Journal on Oct. 28, Hussey wrote an emotional response "to 'the drama team' who are working so diligently to cause my fail." She did not identify any of her detractors.
"You are hateful, nasty, ruthless and vindictive people," Hussey wrote. "You have disgraced Peru's slogan of 'Neighbors Helping Neighbors.'"
Hussey said that she is "not guilty of any wrongdoing and I know that I have given the town and position my best.
"I have nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing mysteriously disappeared or was intentionally withheld by me," she said.
Hussey said that when she was elected as selectman more than once, everyone knew she was also a town employee and no one made an issue of it until now.
"This whole issue started because in doing my job, one couple didn't like 'the process' and have become monsters at my expense," she said.
"The past six months have been brutal for my mental well-being. These individuals have constantly slandered me and I have been the target of hateful talk and the subject of untruths."
The letter was published in the Rumford Falls Times on Oct. 31.