Have the court rule on Poulin

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Efforts by the governor, attorney general, Democratic Party officials and others to unseat wayward Androscoggin County Commissioner Helen Poulin have reached a stalemate. So far, this group has opined that she’s vacated her seat, and scheduled a caucus to select a replacement.

But this coalition hasn’t actually made Poulin leave the commission – and she knows it. On Wednesday, Poulin said only a court order could render her seat vacant, regardless of where she resides. Or whose opinion says what.

Poulin, who sparked this all by moving from her district in Lewiston to Auburn, is not wrong. No recall provisions exist for county commissioners. Impeachment is not possible, because Poulin’s transgression is not criminal.

She could be removed by address of the Legislature, but there hasn’t been one of those for 95 years.

(The last one anybody can remember came in 1913, when the sheriff of Cumberland County was expelled from office for failing to enforce Prohibition.)

The only short-term solution, it seems, is judicial intervention. Instead of dueling legal opinions, a Superior Court justice should decide which one is correct and then act accordingly.

Because, in short, there are no precedents for this. Everybody, from Gov. John Baldacci down the line, is flying on instruments. And Poulin, safe in her seat, can ignore the opinions of this state’s most powerful government officials.

And the longer she stays seated, the worse it looks for the governor, attorney general and Democratic Party for failing to control one of their own. It’s already bordering on embarrassing.

At the start of this saga, the pressure was on Poulin to resign. Her obstinacy, however, has put this pressure on her critics, who are vociferous about her wrongness, but too vague about what to do to make it right.

It’s high time something is done to turn their information gathering and opinion-making into action. Poulin, as long as she resides in Auburn, should not be representing Lewiston on the county commission.

This is not a matter of one city versus another. It is a matter of public officials staying true to a singular criterion for electoral eligibility – that they live among the people they serve.

But this argument has been made, over and over. Poulin’s disagreement is on record. So is the attorney general’s legal opinion, the sentiments of Gov. Baldacci and the feelings of the Androscoggin County Democratic Committee.

Everybody knows where they stand, especially Poulin. She will remain county comissioner.

A judge should now decide whether she shouldn’t.

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