Voters to decide fate of ordinance on removing selectmen
FRENCHVILLE, Maine — Town officials verified more than 80 signatures Monday, March 13, on a petition calling for Frenchville’s Board of Selectmen to create an ordinance outlining the process by which any selectman or other elected official, who is unable to perform his or her duty, or who has failed to discharge their duties of office, could be removed.
“We just want to put this to voters in March,” said one of the petition organizers, Marie Ouellette, referring to the March 21 annual town meeting.
Town Manager Ryan E. Pelletier confirmed Monday that the petition was properly submitted within the deadline and will be part of the town warrant put before voters on the 21st. Based on the number of voters casting ballots in the last gubernatorial election, only 52 valid signatures were required on the petition, he said.
A previous petition, submitted just last week, was deemed invalid due to its wording and lack of a notary public’s signature. Also, the previous petition did not contain an ordinance for the selectmen to review and which the voters must vote on at the town meeting.
Ouellette, who said she worked with another Frenchville resident, Percy Thibeau, on circulating the petition and getting the required signatures, did not confirm if there was a specific reason for requesting the creation of this ordinance at this time.
Ouellette’s family has been embroiled for nearly a year in a debate with the town and with an adjacent landowner, John Ezzy, regarding whether Pelletier Avenue is a public or private road. Ezzy is chair of the Board of Selectmen and he spearheaded, last year, a road improvement project, approved by voters, that would have repaired and paved Pelletier Avenue.
The Ouellettes, who have the support of several other residents, claim the road is owned by their family and is, in fact, private. They also contend that public monies should not be spent to improve it.
The Ouellettes are currently contesting the road issues in civil court. One of Ouellette’s sons, Bruce, is facing criminal charges following an altercation that occurred on Pelletier Avenue in October while Ouellette was using his tractor to plow what he claimed was his road. Those charges include aggravated criminal mischief, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, and obstructing government administration.
The town has no ordinance in place for removing a selectman, other than through existing Maine statutes for cases where the elected official has been engaged in criminal activities. Any method of unseating an elected official must be approved by the voters, and ordinances must be approved at the annual or a special town meeting.
“We are moving forward,” Marie Ouellette said. “After (the town meeting) we will see what happens.”
Editor’s note: In a previous version of this story, the claims of assault charges were incorrect. We have amended that listing of charges to reflect those given by the Grand Jury.