April 05, 2020

Presque Isle challenges lawsuit on school board vote> City suggests wrong party sued

CARIBOU — In a court battle over which candidate won a seat on the SAD 1 board of directors, attorneys for the city of Presque Isle claim the wrong party was sued.

Terry Sandusky of Mapleton, a veteran SAD 1 board member, filed a lawsuit against the city and the City Council after a tie was declared in the race for the school board seat.

At issue were three ballots cast in November by Presque Isle residents who used stick-on labels to vote for challenger Russell Bugbee of Mapleton. Contrary to legal advice, the City Council voted to count the ballots, which resulted in a tie between Sandusky and Bugbee. According to state law, stickers may be used only during primary elections.

In documents filed recently in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou, the city claims Sandusky should have filed suit against Bugbee. The city also asks that Sandusky’s complaint be dismissed.

A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Feb . 5 in Superior Court in Caribou.

Citing state law, city attorney David A. Dunlavey of Presque Isle argued that Sandusky may proceed only against someone who claims title to the school board seat.

In its motion to dismiss, the city claimed Bugbee is the party that would be “potentially adversely affected by a decision of the court.”

In failing to name Bugbee as a defendant, the city claimed Sandusky failed to proceed in a “timely” fashion and the case should be dismissed. Any action against the other candidate should have been brought against Bugbee within 30 days of the election, according to the city’s argument.

In a response brief, Sandusky’s attorney, Jennifer R. Raymond of Presque Isle, argued state law does not say Sandusky may proceed only against parties that claim title to the school board seat.

It was the City Council’s action in accepting the “illegal sticker ballots that denied [Sandusky] his rightful re-election to the school board, not the actions of Mr. Bugbee,” Sandusky’s attorney argued.

If Bugbee had been declared the election winner, then Sandusky would have had a claim against Bugbee.

Although the challenger was not named in the initial complaint, a summons and complaint was served to him as an interested party, according to court documents.

Sandusky’s attorney also has filed a motion to include Bugbee as a defendant and an interested party in the suit.

In the court papers, Sandusky also claims that any challenged ballots should have been submitted to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for a decision.

Earlier this month, Sandusky asked that the ballots be forwarded to the high court. However, the city has declined to so, according to court documents.

Meanwhile, Sandusky remains on the school board while the case is being considered. Earlier this month, a preliminary injunction was issued to keep the city from scheduling a runoff election and from appointing someone to fill the school board seat.

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