The Mechanic Falls Town Office on July 18, 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

MECHANIC FALLS — The petition drive to recall four town councilors stalled Wednesday after the town attorney informed the interim town manager the signatures of the petition gatherers had not been notarized on the required affidavit.

Chairman Cathy Fifield, Vice Chairman Wayne Hackett and Councilors Nicholas Konstantoulakis and John Emery have been named on a recall petition affidavit because, recall supporters say, they voted June 17 to dismiss Town Manager Zakk Maher.

Councilor Keith Bennett, who voted against removing Maher, was not included in the recall effort.

The citizen-initiated petition drive was also spurred by the town’s refusal to offer more details behind Maher’s dismissal, and out of concern the council may have neglected state law and similar rules laid out in the town charter on the proper procedures for dismissing a town manager, according to supporters.

Mark Elliott, the main organizer of the recall effort, said he was notified Wednesday afternoon the petition drive was not valid until the signatures were notarized on an affidavit he and four other residents signed and turned in to the town requesting the petition drive.

The five signatures were Elliott’s and those of Aaron Ouellette, Randal Madore, Thomas Webster and William Dyer.

Elliott said he and the members of his group checked the town charter for rules governing recalls. Elliott said the charter does not require signatures on a recall affidavit be notarized. Instead, he said, the charter stipulates the town clerk must verify the signatures belong to voters who are registered in Mechanic Falls.

On Monday, Julie Ward, the interim town clerk, verified the affidavit and provided blank petition sheets to Elliott so he and his group could begin collecting signatures to recall the four councilors.

Ward said each recall petition of a councilor must have at least 192 qualified signatures, based on the need to acquire 15% of the 1,278 Mechanic Falls voters who cast ballots in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

Ward said because she wanted to be sure the process was handled correctly, she checked Tuesday afternoon with interim Town Manager Fred Collins. This prompted Collins to contact the town’s attorney, Jack Conway of Linnell, Choate & Webber, for his opinion.

The Mechanic Falls Town Office on July 18, 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Conway reportedly phoned Collins on Wednesday morning and told him the affidavits required notarization. Collins then told Ward to notify Elliott to stop collecting signatures.

Elliott said he will have the affidavit notarized.

He added, “None of us want to make any rash, knee-jerk decisions, so a little breather is probably the best for a few days.”

Elliott said he and his group will renew the effort to collect signatures early next week “just to give us a little buffer.”

“I have a feeling this is going to turn into ‘David and Goliath,’” he said.


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