Petition Supporters Explore Ways to Appeal Council Vote

It isn’t over yet, according to the organizers of a petition drive to restore funding to several town services.

Neil Wetherbee, a former Town Councilor and one of the guiding forces behind eight petitions presented to the Town Council earlier this summer, said in a phone interview Monday that he and the other sponsors are exploring ways to appeal the 4-3 decision of the Council, made in the July 28 special meeting, not to honor the petitions (See related story this page).

The eight referendum petitions were intended as a mechanism to revisit the Council’s May 19 vote to cut police personnel and overtime, fire personnel and overtime, public works personnel and overtime, close a fire station and eliminate the Human Resources Director position. The 4-3 vote cut the tax rate by $1.21, but left many residents unhappy with cuts they said were too deep.

Organizers based their appeal on a section of the Town Charter that allows for “referendum petitions” to be reconsidered by the Council and allowed to go to a special election. In the July 28 meeting, Chairman Tom Cardon said a legal opinion from Devine, Millimet eliminated budget votes from the items that could be reconsidered.

“Obviously I don’t think anyone is too happy about this,” Wetherbee said Monday night. “This is a violation of the charter.” Wetherbee said in his interpretation of referendum petitions, the Council had two choices: repeal its earlier vote or send the issue to the voting body.

“We are exploring our options,” Wetherbee said of himself and the loose coalition that had drafted the petitions. “We may hire a lawyer.” The problem, he said, is coming up with attorney’s fees and finding the right legal counsel.

That would have to be an attorney specializing in municipal law and well-versed in town charters, he said.

Wetherbee would like to see the cuts overturned but is even more passionate about the people’s will being done. “If the majority of the townspeople support the cuts, I say, let them have it,” he said.

“I don’t know what their problem is,” Wetherbee said of the four Councilors – Thomas Cardon, Mark Osborne, David Fischer and Albert Dimmock. “I don’t know why they won’t let it go to the voters.”

But Wetherbee emphasized that he and his colleagues aren’t done yet. “They are banking on us not having the will and resolve to continue this,” he said. “We have the will and we have the resolve.”