Selectmen accountability for violating state law

| Letter to the editor from John Salisbury |

Should individuals on the Board of Selectmen be held accountable for knowingly violating state law?

This is the question New Gloucester voters should be asking themselves after a recent 3-1 decision by the Board of Selectmen on the question of whether they should appoint their 3 representatives to the Charter Commission the voters approved overwhelmingly at the November, 2020 election.

Here is the excerpted language contained in the state statute regarding the selectmen’s appointment of 3 persons to the Charter Commission:

“The municipal officers shall make the appointments in accordance with municipal custom or bylaws within 30 days after the election approving the establishment of the charter commission.”

The state statute is very clear.  Despite the state law, Select Board members Karen Gilles, Linda Chase and Tammy Donovan knowingly voted to ignore the state statute.  Only Selectman Peter Bragdon voted to move forward in making the appointments.

The rationale of those who were against appointing 3 members as required by the statute were:

  1. There is no penalty for violating the state law.
  2. We do not understand the reason for the state law, therefore we do not need to obey it.
  3. Three of the five Board of Selectmen positions will be open and elected at the June 2021 election.  We do not know who those three individuals will be.

None of these justify blatantly violating the state law.  I hope New Gloucester voters will consider whether select persons who voted against following state law should be re-elected if they choose to run for another term.  It should be one of your considerations when you go to the polls in June.  In the interim there is also the possibility the Board of Selectmen will reflect on their action and reconsider their decision.

If you would like to read the state statutes on Charter Commission, Membership, Procedure, here is the link: Title 30-A, §2103: Charter commission, membership, procedure (maine.gov)

John Salisbury

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