OGUNQUIT, Maine — The judge presiding over the lawsuit filed by four Ogunquit residents seeking to halt the recall vote of three Select Board members, has lifted a temporary stay issued last month, paving the way for a date to be set for the recall election.
Residents Mary Buck, Barbara Ferraro, Patricia Hussey and Peter Kahn filed the lawsuit on Jan. 25 asking the court to order the town to stop moving forward with the recall citing numerous problems with the way the petitions were handled by both circulators and at Town Hall. The lawsuit also sought a temporary injunction, or stay, to stop an election from being held while the lawsuit is pending.
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York County Superior Court Judge John O’Neil agreed to the temporary injunction on Feb. 4, preventing the Select Board from moving forward in scheduling the recall election. Ogunquit resident Jerry Dehart, who supports the recall effort, filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit, and also submitted a motion through his attorney, Leah Rachin of Bergen Parkinson, asking the judge to lift the temporary stay so the recall election could proceed.
O’Neil lifted the stay in a ruling issued late Thursday saying without a hearing there was no legal basis for preventing recall proceedings from moving forward, even though a decision in the lawsuit is still at least a month away.
O’Neil has issued a tightened court timeline ensuring that the trial and judge’s ruling will come before the recall election can be scheduled, according to Peter Langsdorf, attorney for the plaintiffs.
[Ogunquit residents sue to stop recall election]
“I’m not unhappy with this order at all. It accomplishes what we want, which is to rule on the legitimacy of this recall before it occurs,” Langsdorf said in a phone interview Thursday.
The judge ordered written discovery from all parties to be submitted by March 22 and a trial to be set for the week of March 25, 2019.
“Court will issue its decision as expeditiously as possible,” O’Neil said in Thursday’s findings.
Rachin said Friday that she was working with her client to determine their next steps.
The suit follows months of turmoil surrounding the future of three members of the Select Board — Chairman Charles “Bunky” Waite, Selectwoman Madeline Mooney and Selectman Bob Winn.
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Residents who initiated the recall process did so following a public appeal hearing on Oct. 9 where the three board members voted to support the termination of former fire chief Mark O’Brien by Town Manager Pat Finnigan.
Selectmen Rick Dolliver and John Daley voted against upholding O’Brien’s termination. O’Brien has since filed a complaint against the town in York County Superior Court appealing his firing.
Before the lawsuit was filed the recall effort was slated to move forward after Town Clerk Chris Murphy issued findings in the challenges made at a public hearing on Jan. 11 to signatures gathered on the recall petitions. Murphy denied all but three of the 11 challenges, meaning there were enough valid signatures to move petitions to the Select Board.
Murphy and Town Manager Pat Finnigan could not be reached Friday to offer details on a possible schedule for the election. The Select Board are slated to meet for a regular board meeting at 6 p.m. on March 19.