2006 July 14
by Eileen Curry
Four citizens of Perry met at the town clerk's office on June 8 with 141 signatures from registered voters in the Town of Perry to petition selectmen to call a special town meeting to vote on enacting a recall ordinance. The citizen group hopes to remove "one to two selectmen" from office, because of issues stemming from the liquefied natural gas (LNG) proposals.
Perry resident Bill Kendall read a brief statement: "With this initiative, the citizens of Perry are making a clear statement that they have the utmost respect for the dedicated, hard-working and committed public servants that hold elected office. But they also expect that their trust not be abused, the authority they delegate not be overstepped and that the will of the people will be consulted and respected. We are setting a standard of accountability with this petition and reaffirming the basic principle of democratic rule." The request asked for the town clerk to certify the signatures contained on the petition within 10 days.
Town Clerk Janice Scanlon told the group that it may take "a bit longer" for her to verify not only the signatures but to determine if the petition meets all of the qualifications as set forth in Section 3 of the ordinance. If the petition is certified by the town clerk to be sufficient, it will be submitted to the Board of Selectmen for their next regular meeting to order an election by secret ballot, to be held not less than 30 nor more than 45 days after that date.
John Cook of Perry cited his reasons for initiating the petition, saying, "I have some concerns about certain selectmen." When asked if he had a problem with one or more selectmen, Cook said, "Yes, David Turner." He also said, "There is a deep rift in our community due to LNG, and our elected officials need to be fair and balanced about it. This pertains to all elected officials. We need to demand accountability." Cook was asked if he thought a second election for selectman in Perry would bring different results than the previous one in March, when Turner was elected. Cook responded, "I don't know, but we need to give the choice back to the people."
Selectman David Turner, in response to the citizen initiative, said, "I don't have a problem with the recall provision, as long as the ordinance is fair. Let the motion move forward. If the people don't want me as selectman, I will respect that. It's a lot of work. I will continue to work until I am voted off."
Turner also said, referring to the difference of opinion on LNG issues in town, "This could also backfire, too. Some could want to recall Jeanne Guisinger." Turner also responded to the citizen action, saying, "This group of people is only interested in anti-development here. We will have an LNG/FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] permit for Robbinston and/or Perry. Whether you are for it or against it, we need to use what influence we have to be ready for it. These people don't care about any other issue in the town of Perry but LNG."
During the regular selectmen's meeting on July 10, Scanlon told the board that after a preliminary check of signatures she felt that there were discrepancies in the petition submitted by the citizen group. "After looking at the document, I'll need to go over this with a fine-tooth comb. It looks as though some people have signed for other people. Also, I have made some phone calls to several people listed and they said that they weren't told what it was really designed for. I was also told that only a cover sheet was presented and not the ordinance explanation."
This caused a disruption at the meeting; both sides of the ordinance issue made comments and were upset. Cook, in attendance at this meeting, denied any petition-tampering by him or the group, and said, "This process was done by the book, according to the law. We followed the rules." Turner took this cue during the meeting to ask people to "settle down" and went on to ask Scanlon to review the document thoroughly and submit her findings at the next selectmen's meeting.
© 2006 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.