ROCKLAND, Maine — A leading critic of the city manager has turned in a petition with 233 signatures from people expressing a lack of confidence in him and asking the City Council to dismiss him.
Deborah Atwell turned in the petition Thursday night at the start of a council meeting held for another closed-door meeting with an outside attorney to discuss personnel issues.
Atwell conceded that the petition was not a formal legal document that could force any action, but said she has been doing research on launching what would be a formal citizen initiative.
The petition drive began a month ago.
Rockland has a population of about 7,300 with 4,714 registered voters.
Mayor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said Thursday night after the petition was presented that she had not yet read it. She questioned, however, why Atwell had redacted the telephone numbers and email addresses of the people signing the petition.
Atwell said the petition is an expression of people’s lack of confidence in James Chaousis and their desire to have his contract terminated. Atwell previously has criticized Chaousis over his firing last month of longtime Harbor Master Ed Glaser and for what she said was his support of a natural gas plant in Rockland.
Chaousis said Friday it is concerning when a small group of individuals backs a petition expressing no confidence and seeking termination of the city manager.
“This type of undertow in Rockland has caused the city to employ seven different city managers in the last seven years,” Chaousis said in an emailed response to the BDN when asked to comment on the petition. “I came here knowing those statistics.
“The people that signed the petition believe their action to be in the best interest of the city of Rockland but 30 percent of signers weren’t even from Rockland,” he said in the email. “The remaining signers are concerned about policy issues that would upset any municipality in Maine.
“I wish I could bring answers to international energy dilemmas and the macroeconomy but I can’t,” Chaousis said. “I can only run the business of the City of Rockland and that prescribes change. Change is hard but we are rolling up our sleeves to change the city for the better. We can’t accept the old ways of doing things because that’s how it has always been. We want professional integrity, fiscal responsibility, and a better government in Rockland.”
He said he thinks the sentiments will change when he releases his first budget plan since becoming manager last March. The budget is generally released in late April.
Glaser was fired three weeks before his retirement. In explaining his action, Chaousis said the harbor master had worked to undermine policies established by the manager and council and that Glaser also had violated the city’s Internet policy by accessing pornography on his city-supplied computer. A grievance panel upheld the manager’s action.
The mayor said Friday that no action was taken after Thursday night’s closed-door meeting with attorney Linda McGill of Portland. No further executive sessions are scheduled, she said. The council said the meeting with McGill was to discuss multiple personnel matters, not just an individual. Councilors have not said why they are not consulting with city attorney Kevin Beal.