Judge hears town manager’s residency requirement case

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PARIS Whether a residency requirement for the Rumford town manager will be upheld or not wont be known for at least a few days or weeks.

Judge Robert E. Crowley heard Peter Kaynor, representing the town because town attorney Jennifer Kreckel was out on a family emergency, and attorney Thomas Carey, representing himself and 20 other Rumford residents in a suit against the town Tuesday morning in Oxford County Superior Court.

About a dozen Rumford residents, including Selectmen Arthur Boivin and Mark Belanger, attended the hearing.

At issue is whether Town Manager Steve Eldridge must move to the town from his residence in Monmouth, or forfeit his position. The case also involves whether selectmen have the discretion to hire from outside the town if they believe the best qualified person does not reside in the town.

During the hearing, Kaynor said, What is occurring is a minority of selectmen who allege there is a renegade majority (of selectmen). Theres an unhappy minority of the board.

Boivin and Belanger have often voted in the minority regarding town manager employment.

Speaking later Tuesday afternoon, Kaynor said he believed the ongoing case is more about political arguments than about protecting the charter, and cited the 12-year term of former police Chief Timothy Bourassa. The former chief resided in neighboring Mexico and no one made an issue of it.

Carey brought suit against the town several months ago, citing a section of the town charter that requires the town manager, as well as holders of three other appointed positions, to move to Rumford within three months of hire.

Carey declined to comment on Tuesdays proceedings; however, during the court appearance, he asked Crowley to require that selectmen declare a forfeiture of the managerial position.

The town charter is the law of Rumford, its constitution. Rumford citizens expect the charter to be upheld, he said, referring to a vote taken on Dec. 5 asking whether residents wanted to amend the charter, allowing selectmen to decide whether a town manager must live in town. Residents voted nearly 2-1 to keep the charter as it is.

Eldridge was hired two years ago with the understanding that he would not be required to move to the town.

Kaynor said he viewed the judges options as: he could grant the towns request to dismiss the case, which would end the matter; he could not grant the towns request, which would mean that the plaintiffs could continue with the lawsuit; or he could grant partial relief to the plaintiffs.

After the hearing, Belanger said that he was not in a two-person minority.

We represent 622 people. Well see how it goes, he said.

Crowley said at the end of the 40-minute hearing that he would take the arguments under advisement, then notify the involved parties in writing of his decision.

eadams@sunjournal.com

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