TREMONT — Selectmen took the first step toward putting a recall ordinance for elected town officials before voters at a town meeting.
The board’s 3-2 vote Monday was in response to a request from resident Mel Atherton, who asked selectmen to put an ordinance on a town meeting warrant. On Monday, Atherton, without being specific, referred to a “tumultuous” history of town politics and said that a recall ordinance could ensure that elected officials are “more in touch with the voting public.”
“I think it would be a good tool to have,” he said.
The only elected officials in Tremont are the selectmen and members of the school committee. A recall ordinance would apply only to selectmen. School committee members are exempt from recalls.
Selectman Kevin Buck said he liked the idea of a recall ordinance. But, he added, the number of signatures needed on a petition calling for a recall election should be high enough to eliminate frivolous efforts.
“We need to set the bar high so [recalls don’t] happen too frequently,” Buck said.
Mount Desert is the only town on Mount Desert Island to have a recall ordinance. There, a petition signed by a number of voters equal to at least 10 percent of votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election is needed to initiate a recall election. The grounds for recalling an official are violations involving the Mount Desert town charter or state or federal law or conduct causing a loss of confidence in his or her judgment or ability to perform the duties or responsibilities of the office.
Selectman Dean Wass took issue with Atherton’s request.
“I have a problem with one person coming in here asking for a recall ordinance,” Wass said. “I’d like to know how others feel.”
Atherton pointed out that voters would have to approve the adoption of an ordinance and therefore would be expressing their feelings at the polls or on the floor of a town meeting.
Selectman Chris Eaton agreed, saying that voters also could weigh-in on a proposed recall ordinance during the public hearings that would be held prior to the vote.
Buck’s motion to form a committee to draft a recall ordinance to present to voters carried in the 3-2 vote. Wass and Stewart Murphy cast the opposing votes.
Selectmen decided the committee should have seven members. They asked Town Manager Dana Reed to prepare an outline of the duties of the committee and bring it to them at their next regular meeting.