Falmouth council sends budget, tax hike to voters

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Question raised, answered about School Board candidate’s ability to serve

FALMOUTH — Voters will have the final say on a proposed tax increase to support education after the Town Council approved a $36.9 million school and municipal budget Monday evening.

The $26.2 million school budget will have a state-mandated public meeting at the Town Hall on May 16 at 7 p.m. and will go to voters as Question 2 on the June 14 ballot.

The school budget, which would result in a property tax rate increase of 11.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, includes a new all-day kindergarten program and the first payments on the bond for the new elementary school.

Before the council approved the official election warrant, there was a question about whether one candidate for the School Board can legally run for office.

“Is Michael Doyle qualified to serve on the School Board, because he has served time in jail?,” Chairman Tony Payne asked.

Doyle, who is seeking one of three seats on the board, was convicted in March 2002 of securities fraud and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison with all but 14 months suspended, and a $16,000 fine.

Payne read from the Town Charter: “If a member of the School Board … shall be convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, the office of that School Board member shall immediately become vacant.”

Payne asked the other councilors and the town manager if they thought a person had to commit a crime while in office for this rule to take effect.

Town Manager Nathan Poore said he spoke briefly to the town attorney about the issue and the attorney said the spirit of the Charter seemed to indicate a person would have to commit the crime while in office. Poore also said the council does not have the authority to remove a person’s name from the ballot.

“If we’re speaking specifically of Mr. Doyle, he should be here,” Councilor Fred Chase said.

Doyle attended the earlier part of the meeting, but left before the ballot discussion.

Ultimately, the councilors voted unanimously to approve the ballot with Doyle’s name on it. Payne said it was important to ask the question.

“This should give Michael Doyle confidence he’s going to be on the ballot appropriately,” Payne said.

The secretary of state’s office confirmed Tuesday that there is no reason the council’s decision would be called into question.

“There’s no restriction on that in the law,” spokeswoman Caitlin Chamberlain of the secretary of state’s office, said. She added that unless there’s something specifically in the Town Charter that prohibits someone who has been convicted of a crime from holding office, that person can run for any elected office.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.