Paris recall amendments get hearing

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PARIS — A set of recall amendments proposed by the town’s policy and procedures committee brought only a couple of residents to a hearing on the matter Wednesday.

Members of the committee and Board of Selectmen attended the meeting to discuss the amendments to the ordinance, which passed 1,555 to 537 in November. Petitions to recall four selectmen were submitted for consideration soon after; two were recalled, one after submitting his resignation. A more restrictive ordinance proposed by a resident was voted down at a special town meeting in January.

The procedures of the ordinance were subject to other challenges before it was first put into use. The board failed to set up a recall election within the given time period after receiving recall petitions for two selectmen, leading to an effort to have a notary public schedule an election. A selectman subject to recall sought a public hearing three days before his election due to language in the ordinance saying a hearing can be scheduled “at any time” between the ordering of an election and the election itself.

One amendment would have the required number of signatures on a petition equal at least 10 percent of the number of registered voters in Paris, rather than 10 percent of the town’s turnout at the last gubernatorial election. The change would increase the number of signatures required to begin recall proceedings from about 211 to about 360.

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“It is not designed to throw roadblocks in front of petitioners,” said policy and procedures committee member Anne Stanley. “However, we decided to respond to a number of complaints in the community that there weren’t enough signatures.”

Another amendment would require the selectmen to, within seven days of receipt of the petition, order a recall election to be held on the first Tuesday after the 45th day from receipt or at a regular municipal election if one is scheduled within 60 days. The current ordinance allows a more open-ended schedule, requiring the board to schedule an election within 14 days of receiving a petition, and hold the election 30 to 60 days later or at a regular election if one is scheduled within 90 days.

Resident Barbara Payne said the given Tuesday could fall on a holiday. Town Manager Philip Tarr suggested that if that occurs, the board could schedule an election within the week following the holiday.

Other amendments would:

• Require an official subject to recall to request a hearing “between the time of ordering the recall election and the 21st day before said election” to allow time for public notification. The current ordinance allows such hearings to take place “at any time between the time of ordering the recall election and the date of said election.”

• Have recall petitions address the entire Board of Selectmen rather than “those members of the Board of Selectmen having no interest in the subject matter of the petition.”

• Have the town clerk notify the official subject to recall of the petition within two business days of its receipt.

• Add a reference to a state statute allowing shortened filing dates, which would allow for elections to fill any vacancies to take place more quickly.

• Clarify that a recalled official will be removed “immediately” and that a tie vote will defeat the recall.

Raymond Glover, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said selectmen will decide whether to present the amendments at a referendum vote or a special town meeting. If the amended ordinance is accepted, it will repeal and replace the current document.

mlangeveld@sunjournal.com

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