Undoubtedly, many public officials can identify with the frustration of school system managers and members of the Mount Desert Island High School Board of Trustees who are upset that one of their members has been woefully deficient in attending important meetings.
School Superintendent Marc Gousse has had multiple communications with Michael Sawyer of Southwest Harbor about his lack of attendance. However, sending Sawyer a letter saying “if you don’t answer, we’ll take it as a resignation,” is not a positive way to approach the problem.
Gousse also notified Sawyer that repeated absences can lead fellow board members to declare “a vacancy exists” and direct town officials to fill it.
However, the specific statute quoted by Gousse deals with school administrative district board members. The trustees are a different entity.
And, there has not been any formal vote on the part of the active trustees to declare a vacancy.
In an interview, Gousse said if he quoted the wrong statute, he will find the right one, and that either way, “we’re moving forward.”
That is understandable – but not so fast.
Even though Sawyer won his seat by just a handful of write-in votes, he was legally elected. For unelected bureaucrats to push full speed ahead on questionable legal grounds to remove a duly elected official, even when it appears they would be extraordinarily justified in doing so, is wrong.
The best outcome in this situation would be for Sawyer to decently surrender the duties he apparently has no intention of discharging. If formal ouster action needs to be taken, that action should conform to the letter of the law.
While having a do-nothing board member is frustrating, attempting to remove a duly elected official using hardball tactics and a wink should be avoided.