The Bangor City Council on Monday night was forced to retake a divided vote for its chair because a councilor abstained from the first vote earlier in the day but shouldn’t have been allowed to.
The nine-member council voted 5-4 in the second vote to give Councilor Rick Fournier another year as council chair.
Councilors Susan Hawes, Dan Tremble, Rick Fournier, Jonathan Sprague and Joe Leonard voted in favor of naming Fournier as chair while councilors Clare Davitt, Cara Pelletier, Gretchen Schaefer and Dina Yacoubagha voted no.
Earlier in the day, Fournier was selected to serve as the board’s chair in a 4-3 vote with one abstention. Hawes, Tremble, Fournier and Sprague voted in favor of giving Fournier another year as chair, but Davitt, Pelletier and Schaefer voted against the nomination.
Yacoubagha abstained from voting, saying she doesn’t like the process of electing a chair and doesn’t believe it’s transparent, and Leonard was absent.
On both occasions, Tremble nominated Fournier, no one else was nominated for the position, and Fournier effectively acted as the tie-breaking vote for his own selection as chair.
But in the first vote, the council didn’t follow a city rule requiring all present councilors to vote unless they had some conflict of interest the council acknowledged, according to Bangor city solicitor David Szewczyk.
Leonard, who was absent for the first vote due to travel complications, voiced support for Fournier and said the recently reelected councilor is capable of sparking unity. However, he said, the process of selecting a chair should be revisited.
“I’m personally not a fan of councilors selecting a council chair,” Leonard said. “Why don’t we have a free and transparent election process to select a mayor by the people instead of a behind-the-scenes chair vote? Maybe this is a conversation the council should, at the very least, consider.”