March 28, 2020

Recall petition claims Presque Isle officials violated oath, laws

PRESQUE ISLE — A petition asking for the recall of three City Council members is being circulated this week around the Star City.

The petition forms, taken out by Gordon J. Michaud of Presque Isle, charge that the three councilors violated their oath of office, the public trust and state election laws.

Council members named in the petition are Norman Johnson, Roger Thibodeau and Kathleen White.

Efforts to reach Michaud, who is not listed in the telephone book, were unsuccessful Monday. Although he works at a local hotel, he was on vacation this week, according to a hotel spokesman.

The petition appears to be the latest turn in the controversy that surrounds the City Council. In December, the City Council was sued after it declared a tie in a race for a local school board seat.

In coming to its decision, the City Council opted to count three Presque Isle ballots used in the general election in November that had stickers with the name and address of a write-in candidate. The decision was made in spite of advice to the contrary from the city’s attorney and an opinion from a Maine Municipal Association attorney.

Last week, the three council members voted against the reappointment of the city clerk, who had been on the job for about six months.

The petition also charged that the three council members have violated their oath of office. The oath includes a pledge to support the constitutions of the United States and the state of Maine as well as the laws of the state.

According to the city officials, petitioners must gather at least 803 signatures of registered voters in Presque Isle. All copies of the petition must be returned together on or before Feb. 9, according to the city charter.

After the signatures are certified by the city clerk, the petition is forwarded to the City Council at its next meeting. Unless the officials cited in the petition have resigned, the council must order a “removal election” within between 30 and 60 days of the council meeting.

The ballot would ask if the officials named in the petition should be removed. If the officials are recalled, then a replacement is named to fill the officials’ unexpired term, according to the charter.

Johnson, one of the three councilors named in the petition, said Monday he hadn’t seen the petition, but added that anyone had the right to circulate a petition.

Thibodeau said Monday that when he became aggravated five years ago about the city’s “high” property tax level, he became a candidate and was elected to the council.

“He’s [Michaud] welcome to run for office,” Thibodeau said.

Regarding the election issue, Thibodeau said he believed he “didn’t have the authority to overturn someone’s vote.”

“Our feeling is that we knew what the law was, but wanted a judge to make that decision,” Thibodeau said.

Messages left at White’s residence and place of employment were not returned Monday afternoon.

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