Upton selectman sidelined by illegal warrant
“To ________ , a resident of the town of ________ , Greetings: In the name of the State of Maine, you are hereby required to notify and warn the inhabitants of the Town of _________ , Maine qualified to vote in town affairs, to assemble …. "
Those familiar words read aloud at the beginning of a Maine town meeting are often ignored by voters, as they await the reading and discussion of the warrant articles to follow.
But in Upton a technicality related to that opening statement, which arose in connection with a special town meeting last month, has prevented a new selectman from serving in her position.
Pat Kenyon was elected to fill out the term of former board chair Bob Brown, who resigned in September.
But citizens questioned the legitimacy of the warrant and its public posting, according to current board Chair Bob Pepler, who was contacted by the Citizen last week.
The law requires the warrant be addressed to a citizen other than a town official, and also requires that citizen to post the warrant in a public place before the meeting and sign a notarized statement that he had done so, Pepler said – a fact he and the board did not know before the meeting.
But in accordance with past practice by Upton selectmen, he said, the warrant for the special town meeting had been addressed to a selectman, and no signed statement was completed.
In this case, the warrant was addressed to both Pepler and the remaining selectman, Wanda Hall.
After the validity of the procedure was questioned, Pepler contacted the Maine Municipal Association. MMA confirmed that technically it was not legitimate, and the town could potentially be taken to court over it, he said.
Pepler said he had checked town meeting records for the past decade and found the warrants had followed the same procedure he and Hall used.
Both Pepler and Hall have been on the board less than a year.
Pepler said they decided against calling another special town meeting for a re-vote on the selectman’s seat. “We didn’t want to spend the money for another special town meeting,” he said.
In addition, he said, some residents have left town for the winter and would not be able to attend.
So instead the board will wait to set a vote on the seat for the next annual town meeting, which will be in June, said Pepler. Brown’s seat expires then.
In the meantime Kenyon will not serve, and Pepler and Hall will conduct town business, Pepler said.
He said he feels that he and Hall will be able to come to agreement on issues to be decided between now and then, so that town business may move forward.