NEWRY — Voters going to the polls Monday, March 2, could possibly create a conflict depending on who they choose for selectman. But town officials said Wednesday they’d cross that bridge if they get there.

Selectman Brooks Morton is seeking a second three-year term against challenger Jim Largess. Three years ago, Morton was elected by a two-vote margin over Largess, who had served three consecutive terms as selectman.

Because of a mandate from the Maine Department of Education that the town place a selectman on the Newry Withdrawal Committee, selectmen in October voted to place Morton on the committee, but only after consulting a lawyer.

Morton was the only member with no ties to School Administrative District 44. Board of Selectmen Chairman Wendy Hanscom is employed by SAD 44 and reports to the superintendent, with whom the committee would have to negotiate. The lawyer, Dan Stockford, said because of that, Hanscom couldn’t serve on the committee.

As for the third selectman, Gary Wight, his wife is employed by SAD 44. To eliminate the potential appearance of conflict of interest, Stockford said Hanscom and Wight could abstain from voting or vote on the matter so long as they disclosed their connection to SAD 44. Both disclosed their connection.

Hanscom then nominated Wight to serve on the committee, but her motion died because Morton refused to second it and Wight couldn’t second it. So Wight nominated Morton and Hanscom seconded it, placing Morton on the committee.

The conflict comes into play if Largess wins the election, because his wife, Bonnie Largess, is on the Withdrawal Committee. She also represents Newry as a SAD 44 director and is running unopposed for re-election Monday.

The town’s other SAD 44 director is Whitney Gray, who also is unopposed for re-election.

Stockford said in October that should Morton be defeated as a selectman, he’d have to step down from the Withdrawal Committee. Then, it would be up to selectmen to choose Wight or Jim Largess to serve on the committee. But if Largess is chosen, theoretically, he and his wife might vote together on issues before the committee.

Jim Largess wanted to wait until after the election to comment on the matter. “It seems premature,” he said Wednesday. “Let’s see what happens with the election.”

Hanscom said Wednesday that selectmen haven’t discussed the potential ramifications of a selectman and his wife serving on the Withdrawal Committee. “We’ll cross that bridge after it happens,” she said. “We will have to ask the lawyer. I don’t have any opinion.”

Newry Deputy Clerk Kelly Scott said she had “no idea how the husband and wife thing rolls out.”

She said the board will have to get an opinion from Stockford, who previously didn’t rule out Wight serving on the committee, just Hanscom.

“The town has no official position on how to handle the Withdrawal Committee matter if Brooks is not re-elected,” Scott said.

Administrator Loretta Powers agreed.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Town Office. 

The annual town meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, in the Bear River Grange Hall to act on the remaining 44 warrant articles.

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