Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Voice of the People, Stifled Again!

At the Town Council meeting of May 19, 2015, the School Department budget was presented to the people and Town Council. This budget contained no increase of local funds. However, the Town Council did not accept this budget and made additional cuts to this budget by approximately $399,000.00 plus.  

  During the Audience Participation portion of the meeting numerous citizens voiced their concerns about the additional cuts. No matter what the residents said, the Town Council refused to listen and approve the School Department budget with the numbers the Council wanted to go on the ballot for June 9, 2015. As the RSU, the Council has a perfect right to do so.

I have tried to reconstruct a timeline for what took place during this entire process. I was not involved so I am relying on individuals who were actually there.


WED Turned in Affidavit for petition because the Affidavit did not have Under Oath in it; it was rejected. Also, there was no address where to send petition. This was then correct and resubmitted at o/a 05:50 PM. According to Town Clerk, this paperwork had to be reviewed by the Town Attorney.

THUR Returned to pick-up blanks and was told awaiting legal review. This was 08:30 AM. Talked to Town Manager and asked why a legal review prior to receiving signature. Returned at 01:00 PM and told the legal review was not back. Called the Maine AG and was told to call DA. Called DA and was told to make a compliant with Lisbon PD which we did; however, never received a copy of the compliant.

FRI Town Office Closed. Received a message through Facebook from the Town Clerk saying they would receive blanks between 08:00 – 09:00 AM Sunday.

SAT LJAL held opening day which was a perfect time to gather signatures but did not have the necessary blanks.

SUN The Town Clerk issued signature blanks at approximately 09:00 AM and provided emails from Town Attorney. Starting gathering signatures (451)!

MON Gather signatures totaling 718.

TUE Turned in signatures at 10:20 AM. 24 petitions were filed. The Town Clerk acknowledged 24 petitions with 718 signatures.

WED Petition was denied by Town Clerk.

If you review this timeline you will see several inconsistencies by the town. The first one is asking for a legal review prior to issuing the blank forms. The second legal review came after the citizens had gathered the signatures. If it was not legal why waste the peoples’ time? This is by design!

Second, knowing that LJAL had there open day ceremony on Saturday; why wait until Sunday to issue the blanks. Again, this was design. The Town never figured that this group of citizen could gather the required number of signatures in a timely manner to meet the deadline.

These were delaying action to keep the people from gathering the required signatures. Also, it was as much as harassment or punishment for challenging the Town Council. If the Town Attorney, Town Manager and Town Clerk had prior knowledge that the petition was not legally sufficient; why put the people through this drill for nothing. This is not the way to treat citizens of this community.

As you can see on Wednesday this group of citizens were notified that the petition was denied for two reasons. The first reason was that the School budget is not legally adopted until it is voted on by the people. This means that the Town Council, which is a legislative entity of the town, has no legal standing on the School budget. Also, the Town Council is acting as the RSU as defined by the state and as such has no legal standings at all. How can the School budget amended by the Town Council be placed on the `ballot is it is not legally adopted by the Legislative Body of the Town.

Second and more important, according to the denial letter below it stated and I quote, “A special town meeting to reconsider a school budget approved by the Council and the voters in a secret ballot validation referendum would not be consistent with the statutory and Charter requirements for adoption of school budgets.” Apparently, under no circumstances can you petition for a special town meeting on school budgets. But according to our Charter, paragraph Sec. 8-11(d), it states and I quote “ Special Town Meeting. The qualified voters of the Town shall have the power to reconsider any budget appropriation at a special Town meeting called by petition. The petition must cite the specific appropriation(s) to be included in the warrant for the special Town meeting.” I hate to point out to members of the Town Council, Town Manager and the Town Attorney, who apparently cannot read, that the Charters states “ANY BUDGET APPROPRIATIONS”. Our Charter does not state that Special Town Meetings applies only to Municipal budget appropriations.

Now let’s apply some common sense to the situation. What would be the purpose of a Special Town Meeting after the people had voted on the budgeted appropriations? The people will have already voiced their opinion. This provision in the Charter is intended to have the people correct or make appropriate changes to budget prior to it being voted on.

This process is either definitely broke or the Town took inappropriate action to delay processing of this petition in order to keep the people from speaking or make changes to the Council approved School budget at a special town meeting.


Larry Fillmore

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