POLAND – Two lawyers equal two different opinions.

That’s what the Board of Selectmen got Tuesday during a special legal workshop prompted by the town’s lack of rules and the issue of a Planning Board reappointment.

Despite disagreements in legal definitions, both attorneys urged the elected officials to assure the public that they are playing fair. Selectmen will start by deciding at its next meeting Aug. 17 whether it is a board or committee, which will determine its procedures according to Robert’s Rules of Order.

“If you get off your rear ends and do it, you can set the rules pretty much as you see fit,” said William Dale of the Portland firm Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry. “But being in the middle of a fuss engenders in the public a sense of not playing fair. If you don’t fill in the gaps, you end up where you are tonight.”

Selectman Bud Jordan predicted that Poland residents may finally be ready to adopt a town charter, despite previously failed attempts, because of the recent political wranglings and bad press.

“People in Norway are reading about us in the paper everyday and asking what’s going on down there in Poland,” said Jordan. “This isn’t gaining anything for us – it’s just separating folks. Where’s the board unity?”

On July 6, the board voted down Jordan’s motion to reappoint Ellis to the Planning Board. Selectmen Glenn Peterson and Wendy Sanborn voted no, David Corcoran abstained, and Steve Robinson was absent. The appointment for the alternate position was tabled for July 20 and again for Aug. 3, when selectmen finally voted to appoint Bruce Uldall.

Dale said that boards frequently decline to reappoint committee members due to new or different directions taken by a board.

The town’s regular attorney, Geoffrey Hole of Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson, P.A. in Portland, repeatedly suggested that selectmen avoid any legal questions by revisiting a previous vote on the reappointment of Ellis.

“The bottom line would be to have the procedural vote for reconsideration,” said Hole. “That would be the ideal set of facts and eliminate two up-front questions on an important position in town.”

Hole contended that the board is a standing committee and anyone not on the losing side could bring up a previous vote. That means an absent member and possibly an abstaining member could call for another vote.

However, Dale countered that he believed that the selectmen constituted a board as defined in Robert’s Rules of Order, which requires a motion to reconsider to be made only by someone who voted on the winning side.

“My bottom line is that your vote stands, and that this lady did not get reappointed,” said Dale. “But there’s nothing to prevent her from applying again. She may become the junior member or alternate if that were the case, if that’s the way it’s done here.”

Dale prefaced his comment by pointing out the need to first determine whether Robert’s Rules of Order applies. If Poland has no rules, then several manuals could serve to fill in the gaps, he said. The one that applies depends on which Poland has adopted in practice, if not by official action, he said.

Planning Board member and former Planning Board Chairman Larry Moreau said the Planning Board uses Robert’s Rules of Order. The same manual is used during annual town meetings.

Selectmen and attorneys agreed Tuesday that the original vote was a valid, majority vote, and that written statements and reasons for not renewing a contract do not apply to appointed committee members.

Ellis had insisted that the selectmen put in writing their reasons for not reappointing her.

“You do what you want,” Dale said. “For this to be decided by a bunch of lawyers leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths.”


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