SKOWHEGAN — Somerset Superior Court Justice Bruce Chandler declared in a written judgment Thursday that three Palmyra selectmen acted properly when they refused to call a special town meeting last September.
In addition, Chandler said that the special town meeting, eventually called by citizens, was invalid and all actions taken at the meeting are void. This includes the election of Mathys Van Dam and Victor Kimball as selectmen and the town’s change to an Australian method of voting.
Residents had petitioned the board to call the meeting at which voting was held on seven articles, but Carlton Preble, Priscilla McWilliams and Chairman Byron Wiers had reservations about the legality of some of the articles presented. They refused to set a date for the meeting.
Van Dam gathered more than 170 signatures and, following a little known state law, had his petition notarized by Marie Pennock and the meeting was held.
Preble and McWilliams appealed to the court to block the meeting with a temporary injunction but Chandler ruled the meeting would “not do any permanent harm” if it was held.
On Monday, Chandler conducted a hearing for a judgment on the issue, listening to testimony from all the parties involved. Van Dam and Pennock represented themselves in the courtroom and Skowhegan Attorney Geoffrey Brown represented McWilliams and Preble.
In his ruling, Chandler wrote: “The test to be applied is whether or not the action of the selectpersons in refusing to call a special town meeting upon petition of the requisite number of citizens of the town of Palmyra was unreasonable. The court must determine, not whether it would have made the same decision, or even whether the decision was the best decision, but only whether there was any rational basis for the decision.”
“The court is convinced that there were, indeed, several rational bases for the decision.”
The ruling makes null and void all votes at the special town meeting and all votes since that meeting. The exception, according to Wiers, would be any vote taken by the board which was voted unanimously on by McWilliams, Preble and Wiers, the only three valid board members.
When Wiers was asked Thursday afternoon what the board’s next step would be, he said, “That we don’t know. We have an appointment with our attorney (Friday) morning and we’ll know more then.”
In a joint prepared statement, Kimball and Van Dam stated: “You win a few and lose many. There are no winners in the town of Palmyra today. Two people elected to office to work for all the people of Palmyra have lost sight of their responsibility and have put their personal agenda ahead of the will of the majority.
“By Preble and McWilliams going to court against the majority of voters at the Sept. 25th town meeting, which elected Van Dam and Kimball, they caused the town to fall into more havoc than ever before,” the statement read. “Everything we worked for … is all void. Any moneys that were allocated are now in question.”
Both men said they would run for a selectman’s seat in the March elections. “We will continue to work for all the people of Palmyra, not just a select few,” the pair stated.