PARIS — Five former members of the Norway-Paris Solid Waste board of directors have filed an appeal with the Oxford County Superior Court, seeking reinstatement to the board.
The board has been operated by Town Managers David Holt of Norway and Phil Tarr of Paris since a Feb. 25 decision to remove all seven directors. Al Atkinson, Bruce Hanson and Joe Bracy of Paris, along with Eric Grondahl and Dundee Pratt of Norway, are asking that the vote be nullified. They are also requesting that they be returned to the board and that any further dispute be sent to a third party for arbitration.
Norway-Paris Solid Waste is a quasi-municipal nonprofit organization overseeing the disposal of solid waste in the two communities. In December, the board voted to amend its bylaws to allow it to deny appointments from the towns, nominate replacements for vacated seats, and remove members by a two-thirds vote.
The latter provision was quickly put into action at a January meeting of the solid waste board when members voted 4-1 to remove Paris director Janet Jamison. The members charged that Jamison had overstepped her authority by discussing the amendments with the Norway Board of Selectmen after the solid waste board had agreed to hold a joint meeting with the towns. The board also tried on two occasions to have Jamison’s appointment rescinded due to public statements against Norway-Paris Solid Waste employees and board members.
In the five members’ appeal, attorney Dana Hanley charges that the February decision of the Norway and Paris boards was “unauthorized and improper.” He said Norway-Paris Solid Waste was organized under state statutes for interlocal corporations and solid waste management and should be subject to state laws about nonprofit corporations, which allow the removal of directors by a two-thirds vote. He argues that the interlocal agreement between the two towns did not supersede the board’s bylaws.
“The problem is there’s a dearth of case law in Maine with respect to exactly how these types of organizations should be run,” Hanley said Tuesday.
Hanley is charging a denial of due process and seeking a preliminary injunction to nullify the February vote and reinstate the named directors. He also sought a temporary restraining order to allow the directors to return to the board, but Justice Robert Clifford denied the motion to do so without notification to the towns. A hearing on the preliminary injunction is set for April 1.
Hanley said that if the appeal is successful, it would restore only the five named directors. He said the board is of the opinion that Jamison was legally removed, and that Norway director Bruce Cook would not be returned because he voted as a Norway selectman in favor of removing the solid waste directors.
Hanley says the vote of the Paris board was not valid because only two members were present at the time. A third member was absent, and two other seats were vacant due to recall elections. The towns’ attorney, Robert Crawford, had advised before the vote that the Paris vote could be valid if a majority of the remaining three members voted in favor.
“The town of Paris has become a community of factions and it appears clear that the town of Paris was not operating with a fully-constituted Board of Selectmen on Feb. 25, 2010,” Hanley said. “The town of Paris has not exhibited the capacity to resolve this matter in a less confrontational and public manner.”
In an affidavit submitted to the court, Hanley argues that Holt and Tarr will not be able to manage the NPSW board along with their regular duties. He said the five former members are experienced in areas related to the operation of the transfer stations, and that failure to reinstate them could result in the loss of Norway-Paris Solid Waste jobs and an interruption of the board’s operations, such as negotiations with other towns to allow the use of the Frost Hill landfill in Norway.
Hanley also said that suggestions to have Norway run Norway-Paris Solid Waste with Paris contracting with them are flawed due to a conflict of interest. Norway Selectman Warren Sessions is manager of Oxford County Solid Waste, a recycling company operating at the Brown Street transfer station.
Town Manager David Holt said the towns have been looking at several options about the future of Norway-Paris Solid Waste, but that no definite decisions have been made. He said the two boards of selectmen hope to meet again the second week of April to review the findings of the auditor and discuss Norway-Paris Solid Waste.
“I think the trash has been handled well and in a cost-effective manner, but I think we could all live without the bickering that’s gone on,” he said.
Crawford was not available for comment Tuesday.