Government Spotlight

Town certifies voters’ petition to recall selectman George Colby

| Joanne Cole |

Town officials confirmed on Thursday that they have certified signatures on a voters’ petition to recall selectman George Colby. Validation of the signatures and certification of the petition mean that a special election will be held to determine whether Colby will be removed from office. 

The recall petition was submitted to the clerk’s office on January 19. Under the town’s recall ordinance, the clerk then had 10 days to verify the signatures.

With the petition certified, attention now shifts to the board of selectmen, which has 10 days to set a date for the recall election.  The topic will likely be on the agenda when the board meets on Monday February 1.

The citizens’ initiative to recall Colby has its origin in remarks Colby made at a select board meeting on December 3 that were subsequently censured by the board and which brought to light other statements from Colby.  Concluding the Pledge of Allegiance at the board’s December 3 meeting, Colby said, “…with liberty and justice for all. For everyone. Even us white folks!”

At their December 28 public meeting, the other four select board members unanimously voted to censure Colby’s comment.  

The censure followed a December 19 public statement from the board condemning Colby’s remarks.  It read in part: “Let us be unequivocally clear: we do not condone, agree with or endorse the comments made on December 3rd by Selectman Colby.  Rather, we condemn them.  They do not represent our beliefs, nor do they represent the beliefs of our Town, our citizens and our employees.  They were offensive and inappropriate, not only during a Selectmen’s meeting, but at any time or place, or in any setting or circumstances.  There is no place for such discourse, and we join those who reject them.” 

In a January 26 letter, Colby said that his December 3 comment “might have been out of place at a Select Board meeting, but that’s a minor issue.  Really.  Get some perspective.”  He characterized the recall effort as part of an “agenda” that is “far more malicious.”  His statement did not address a documented email to former selectman Josh McHenry that includes a racial slur and reference to Obama, nor did his statement apologize for his December 3 public remarks.

For Colby to be recalled, the town’s ordinance requires that fifty-five percent of those voting approve his being removed from office. But when that special election will occur is now up to the board of selectmen.