Recall procedure a key issue in Scarborough charter update
SCARBOROUGH — As required every 10 years, a seven-member Charter Commission has started reviewing the Town Charter for necessary changes, additions and deletions.
So far the most significant change under consideration, proposed by Town Manager Tom Hall, is the addition of a recall provision for elected officials. The existing document provides no recourse for the public to initiate a recall, an omission that has come under fire by some members of the Pine Point Residents Association.
The group has expressed an interest in recalling councilors who voted in favor of a land swap last summer between the town and owners of the Lighthouse Motel. From material posted on its Web site, pinepointbeach.com, the association indicates it may be gathering signatures for what it refers to as a "council recall petition." If successful, the effort would result in a special referendum election to immediately amend the charter to include the recall provision immediately, Town Clerk Tody Justice said.
Any recall provision, Hall said, must be "well-crafted" and "should not be an easy process," "reserved for the most egregious issues" and not simply because someone doesn't like a councilor.
The commission has already met several times, Chairwoman Annalee Rosenblatt said. Members examine two sections of the 21-page document during each monthly meeting, reading each section and recording any questions or suggestions for changes that arise. Town officials and members of the public may attend the meetings and offer input, she said.
The process is important, Rosenblatt said, because the charter "is tantamount to the constitution for the town."
"It sets the terms of office for elected officials; the term limits are in the charter; it determines the basics of how the town functions," Rosenblatt said.
After they read through the document, commission members will go back and begin to take action on any changes that were proposed. Once completed, the recommended revisions to the charter will be sent to councilors, who can choose to accept, reject or change them, ultimately determining what goes out to voters, Rosenblatt said.
"Last time the Charter Commission made 10 recommendations and the council let them all go to the voters and nine of them passed," she said.
Though the council in theory has the power to keep any recommendation – including a recall provision – from the voters, Hall said councilors are unlikely to do so.
"I'd be shocked if (councilors) don't pass it on to the voters," he said.
The Charter Commission meets the first Thursday of the month at 9 a.m. at Town Hall, though in the future it plans some evening meetings to encourage greater participation, Rosenblatt said.
Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.