Editorial: Too soon

When a Bar Harbor Town Councilor announced this summer she’d be moving to Florida for the winter and unable to complete the term to which she’d been elected, the remaining councilors began work on finding a replacement.

The new, temporary councilor is experienced and knowledgeable and will surely be an asset, but the council jumped the gun in appointing her and likely violated the Town Charter in doing so.

Councilor Judie Noonan gave the town ample notice. She wrote to the Town Manager and Town Council Chair in July to say her resignation would be effective Oct. 31.

The council discussed the process for appointing a member to fill the vacancy at several meetings, beginning in August. At its Oct. 15 meeting, armed with the names of several residents who had said they’d be willing to serve, the council met in executive session to discuss the appointment.

The seven-member council returned to regular session and four councilors, including Noonan, voted in favor of a motion to appoint Jill Goldthwait. There was no call for nay votes or abstentions.

Under the charter, the council is to appoint a member to serve until the next regular election, in June, when voters will elect a councilor to serve the remainder of the unexpired term. But the charter specifies that the council is to make the appointment “by a majority vote of all of its remaining members …”

The word “remaining” indicates that the charter doesn’t envision the departing councilor having a vote in appointing her replacement.

The councilors may have been trying to be proactive, and make sure no important business was held up before an incomplete council. But they can remedy the error and give the new member a better beginning. The council should take action to reconsider the appointment vote, then vote again with the six remaining elected councilors.

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