NEW GLOUCESTER — A group of residents seeking to recall Selectman George Colby say they expect to have enough signatures on their petition by the end of the month for a townwide vote.

Cameron Dufty, who started the group New Gloucester United Against Racism last summer, said that Colby’s statements at a Board of Selectmen meeting last month “were rooted in racism.”

At the end of the Pledge of Allegiance during the Dec. 3 meeting, Colby said, “Liberty and justice for all, for everyone. Even us white folks!”

Dufty, along with a few other residents, is leading the petition drive.

Town voters passed a recall ordinance in 2014 and an amendment the following year giving residents the right to recall and remove an elected official at any time. In order to send the question to a special election, a petition must have signatures equal to at least 10% of the number of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election, or about 293 signatures in this case.

Selectmen Karen Gilles, Linda Chase, Tammy Donovan and Peter Bragdon issued a statement Dec. 19 condemning the incident after meeting in an executive session, which Colby did not attend, the day prior. They also voted to censure Colby’s Dec. 3 statement at their Dec. 28 meeting.

Gilles, the board chairman, and Colby have not responded to multiple Lakes Region Weekly requests for comment.

The petition organizers are  “a bunch of citizens that have a concern that they don’t want to be represented by a racist,” former Selectman Stephen Hathorne.

He said he was dismayed that Colby has yet to publicly acknowledge or apologize for his remarks and that Colby was absent from the executive session.

“He has a right to his opinions and feelings, which is fine at his own kitchen table, but not in a public forum,” Hathorne said.

Winter weather and COVID-19 precautions limit the group’s ability to go door-to-door but Hathorne and Dufty said members will take shifts collecting signatures at the Transfer Station on Saturday.

Laura Fralich said she believes Colby has shown “no concern” for what she calls “blatantly racist” comments or to have any discussion about them.

“Our elected officials should be (held to) a higher standard and should be elected to represent everyone in the town, not just certain races or demographics of people,” Nichole Stevens said.

Stevens and Fralich are active in New Gloucester United Against Racism.

Colby’s comments “were racist in that they present white people as victims of racial inequality and injustice,” Dufty said, adding that the comments ignore “the real pain of Black, indigenous and people of color who are in a literal fight for their lives.”

She added that he has a history of making inappropriate remarks, referring to a 2010 email exchange between Colby and a selectman in which Colby apparently used a racial slur.

The Lakes Region Weekly submitted a Freedom of Access Act request for those email documents last month and had not received them as of Jan. 6.

“It’s just something that cannot be tolerated any longer and we can do better as a town,” Stevens said.

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