LEWISTON — An expanded provision for removing elected officials from office will be added to a list of voter-approved charter amendments, after a recount last week.

The amendment, number four of nine on the Nov. 2 municipal ballot, adds an “enforcement” provision for removing an elected official from office. It allows the City Council or School Committee to hold hearings regarding accusations against officials that may justify removing them from office.

Due to a ballot programming error, votes on the amendment were not counted on election night and the City Clerk’s office held a recount last week. The recount confirmed that the amendment passed, 5,039 to 2,193, meaning all nine amendments passed.

When drafting charter change proposals, the Charter Review Committee found the current standard for removing elected officials “too limiting.”

Currently, the charter states officials forfeit their seat if convicted of a felony, offense of a sexual nature or a false statement while in office. The amendment will broaden the standard to include “a crime of moral turpitude.”

Since there was previously no charter provision specifying how to handle a situation where an elected official is accused of violating one of the standards, as well as disputes of that accusation, the committee added a provision to allow for hearings on such matters.

The enforcement provision will allow either the City Council or the School Committee to hold “a hearing where the accused would have the right to appear and at which witnesses and testimony could be taken.” Following the hearing, the individual could only be removed from office with a supermajority of five affirmative votes.

According to the amendment, the provision will also allow for the removal of an individual appointed by the mayor to the Planning Board, Board of Appeals, or Finance Committee for similar reasons as those that apply to elected officials; however, “the reasons an individual could be removed from these appointed positions would be broadened to potentially include actions or behavior other than those specifically listed in the charter.”

The removal process for such appointees could be initiated by either the mayor or three members of the council and would also require a hearing before the City Council, requiring five affirmative votes for removal.

According to City Clerk Kathy Montejo, the results for Question 4 were not tabulated correctly on election night, but all other races on the city ballot saw no issues.

After reaching out to the vendor, it was found to be a programming error on their end, she said.

“The vendor always does the original test and municipalities conduct a secondary test. We caught the error during our secondary testing,” she said. “Unfortunately, there was not enough time to have the machines reprogrammed.”

The recount for Question 4 was held Nov. 18.

The amendment, along with eight others, including initiating staggered terms for election officials, will go into effect in December. Staggered terms will begin in 2023.

However, voters will get another chance next year to initiate an even closer look at the City Charter. In June 2022, the city could establish an elected Charter Commission after the City Council voted 4-3 to send the question to voters next year.

While some on the council said a full commission would ensure a more equitable process, others argued it could undo the work that was just accomplished and could initiate too much change too quickly.

A Charter Commission would allow six residents to be elected to drive the work. Leading up to the June 2022 vote, city officials will have to decide whether to conduct the election of commissioners at the same time, or wait until the November 2022 election.

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