YORK, Maine — School Committee member Meredith Schmid said she is not bowed by the bright orange signs that appeared overnight Thursday around town that say, “Resign. Ethics Matter!” Though she is not mentioned by name, the signs appeared after she revealed she sought school documents relating to the behavior of committee candidate Cheryl Neiverth.
“I have no plans to resign,” Schmid said Thursday, adding the signs are only one manifestation of the “unpleasant” response, particularly online, since she made her statement. “It is disappointing to see so much hate in our community — the vitriol is unhealthy for each of us and our children.”
The signs are scattered all over town with several on public property near Route 1 and Spur Road. Many also were placed on private property in Schmid’s neighborhood overnight and were subsequently taken down, Schmid said.
“I do not object to political speech or signs; however, I object to trespass when those signs are posted, unwanted, on private property in my neighborhood,” she said.
Police said they were not called to the neighborhood in response to this incident.
Schmid pointed to many signs around town that thank her.
“One wonderful part of this past week is that I have learned that I have many more friends than I ever knew,” she said.
The orange signs appeared days after Schmid stated on the York Community Dialogue Facebook page that she had filed the Freedom of Access Act request with the York School Department. She sought documents relating to incidents involving Neiverth that occurred on school property, and were independently obtained and verified by the York Weekly.
The documents indicate Neiverth’s ability to access school buildings was limited on several occasions, following incidents in which she displayed “rude” or “threatening” behavior. Neiverth has denied these characterizations, and added she has always been acting to protect her son and other children with special needs.
After her posting on York Community Dialogue, a number of people called for Schmid’s resignation, saying she was jockeying to unseat a fellow candidate. Schmid, Neiverth and Chair Brenda Alexander are seeking election to two open seats on the committee.
Schmid said she “did not lose my rights as a private citizen when I was elected to the School Committee. Use of the FOAA to receive publicly available information is not a legal or ethical violation, and is well within my rights as a private citizen.”
She said the tenor of the online statements against her are “abusive and hurtful.”
The persons who paid for the signs supporting Schmid and those seeking her resignation are anonymous, so not identifiable to the public or the media. This runs counter to state law, which requires temporary signs include the name of the person or group responsible for them.
Those signs are not the only ones in violation. A perusal of signs around town indicate new signs opposed to the Davis land purchase and those supporting Question 4 and opposing Question 45 also don’t have identifiable personal information.
This is just one of the strictures state law places on temporary signs. Signs “bearing the same or substantially the same message” must be 30 feet apart from each other. In addition, they have to be in public rights of way, for a period of no longer than six weeks.
The Maine Department of Transportation is responsible for enforcement of the law, although the town’s code enforcement office and town manager have fielded a number of calls about violations.
The plethora of signs is translating into voter interest at the ballot box. Town Clerk Mary-Anne Szeniawski said Thursday her office has issued 2,600 absentee ballots “and we still have four and a half days to issue absentee ballots, and then the day of the vote itself.” She said 2,600 total ballots were cast last year. The highest turnout was in 2003, when 4,200 people voted.
“The question is, will the turnout be record breaking or will I be napping on May 18? My belief? The former,” she said. “It’s a good problem to have…voting of the masses.”