PARIS — The Board of Selectmen unanimously accepted a set of proposed amendments to the recall ordinance on Monday night, allowing them to go to a public hearing next week.
The amendments were put forth by the Policy and Procedures Committee, which also wrote the ordinance. The hearing will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21, at the town office.
The ordinance passed 1,555 to 537 in a referendum vote in November, and remained in force after a petitioned replacement offered by resident Greg Harris did not gain enough support at a special town meeting in January. Soon after the ordinance passed in November, recall petitions were submitted for former chairman David Ivey, former vice-chair Troy Ripley and selectmen Raymond Glover and Lloyd “Skip” Herrick. Ivey and Ripley were recalled at special elections in February, Ripley after resigning; Glover and Herrick retained their seats.
The proposed amendments to the ordinance include requiring petitioners to gather signatures equal to 10 percent of the registered voters in Paris rather than 10 percent of the town’s votes in the last gubernatorial election. This would increase the signatures required to call a recall election from 211 to about 360.
Other changes would clarify the scheduling of hearings and other events during the recall process. One would have the selectmen schedule a recall election within seven days of receiving a petition, with the election to take place on the first Thursday after the 45th day from the decision or at a regular municipal election if one is scheduled within 60 days. Another would allow an official subject to recall to request a hearing no later than the 21st day before the election to allow for public notification.
The current ordinance allows selectmen to schedule an election within 14 days of receiving a petition, with the election to take place 45 to 60 days later or at a regular election if one is taking place within 90 days. It also allows an official petitioned for recall to request a public hearing “at any time between the time of ordering the recall election and the date of said election.”
Selectman Ted Kurtz questioned why the petitions for a recall election must include a reason for an official’s desired removal when the ordinance does not include any specific criteria for removal.
Glover, now chairman of the selectmen, said a petition needs to have a stated purpose in order to collect signatures. He said he disagreed with suggestions to outline a specific set of reasons that could lead to a person being eligible for recall.
“I disputed that being in the ordinance because I thought it was too restrictive. And generally, and this is my opinion, the reason somebody wants to recall somebody from the board is a political reason,” Glover said.
Harris, who briefly served on the Policy and Procedures Committee that formed the amendments, collected signatures for the recall of former selectman Glen Young due to the color of his hair. Harris never submitted the petition, but said it showed that elected officials could be the subject of recall efforts for trivial reasons.
“In a way it does open up a frivolous reason for a petition,” Glover said. “But my belief is that if someone was being that frivolous, they would not be able to get the number of signatures necessary for it to be a valid petition.”