RUMFORD – Two selectmen took the extraordinary step Thursday of dismissing two others on the five-man board – a move that prompted the fifth member to walk out.

Whether the action taken by Selectmen Brad Adley and Greg Buccina against their colleagues was legal was not clear Thursday night.

Thursday night’s move was the latest incident in a series of contentious events that intensified weeks ago when selectmen dismissed members of the Charter Commission. The town Board of Appeals subsequently overturned that vote, but a decision by a faction of them to have the town attorney represent selectmen before the appeals board caused further division.

Residents then filed complaints against three of the selectmen. That prompted Thursday’s heated discussion.

Selectmen Frank DiConzo and Arthur Boivin were removed from the board Thursday, allegedly for repeatedly failing to follow proper procedures. Selectman Mark Belanger, meanwhile, was issued a reprimand for allegedly not following proper procedures.

When the motion was approved by Adley and Buccina, Belanger walked out. DiConzo and Boivin followed.

The vote by the two followed a reading by Town Manager Jim Doar of complaints lodged against DiConzo, Boivin and Belanger by residents Vince Caruso, Chris and Deborah Carver, and Jack and Mary Kaubris.

Town attorney Tom Carey warned the board that if selectmen were removed, the town may be inviting lawsuits.

“You are on the doorstep of heating up attorney fees,” he said.

But Buccina, the selectmen chairman, had clearly had enough.

“Our attorney costs for the past year have been in cleaning up our behavior,” he said, later adding, “It’s OK to disagree, but there is something wrong with how we do things, and here we go again, what’s next? At a meeting last week with Mexico, people were saying why would they want to merge with us?”

Adley and Buccina asserted that the three other selectmen did not follow proper procedure when they sent a letter to Doar asking for Carey to represent the town during the Feb. 19 Board of Appeals hearing.

Caruso and the Carvers, the residents who lodged the complaints, said the three did not follow the charter, which says a board must act as a unit and not independently, and that they had misused power.

When asked just before action was taken to remove the three, Carver said he stood by the complaint, and that the appropriate action was to remove DiConzo and Boivin.

Caruso said DiConzo had three strikes against him because he had threatened a firefighter at a meeting last fall, had taken part in a tree-cutting incident a few months ago, and then took part in hiring a lawyer without the action of the full board. He said Boivin also took part in cutting down the trees that had been growing in front of the Municipal Building, then took part in the hiring of the lawyer.

Boivin and DiConzo were reprimanded following the tree-cutting incident. They apologized for not following procedure.

Boivin said he believes he did not violate the charter.

Buccina, Adley and Doar weren’t sure what action the remaining members of the board could take next now that there is not a quorum to conduct municipal business.

Buccina said the charter, Robert’s Rules of Order, and the Maine Municipal Association will be consulted Friday. A decision on the next step will be made then.

The three can take the matter to the Board of Appeals.

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