Elected Official Recall Provision Proposed
By Gregory T. Federspiel
A citizen’s petition article asking voters to consider a new provision that would provide a process for removing an elected official from office outside of the normal election cycle will come before voters at the Special Town Meeting scheduled for November 14th. The proposal details the process that would need to be followed to recall a sitting elected Town official (members of the Select Board, Planning Board, School Committee, Library Trustee, Housing Authority, the Moderator, or Constables.)
Currently there is no “off-cycle” provision for removing an elected official from office. If voters are unhappy with the conduct of an elected official, they need to wait until the incumbent is up for re-election to make a change. To create a recall option, a special act of the state legislators is needed. Thus, the article by the petitioners that voters will be asked to approve is to seek approval of a proposed special act by the state legislators on Beacon Hill.
The process for recalling an official is proposed as follows:
- At least 50 registered voters must sign an initial recall petition stating the name of the person being recalled, the person’s office, and the grounds for seeking the recall.
- Once the initial petition signatures are verified, a final recall petition is created. This petition also has the name of the person being recalled, the person’s office, and the stated grounds for the recall. It then lists the first 10 names of those who signed the initial petition. At least 10% of the registered voters must sign this final petition for the recall process to continue.
- Once the final petition signatures are verified, the petition is given to the Select Board. The Board notifies the person who is being recalled within 5 business days of receiving the petition. The person has 3 business days to resign. If no resignation is forthcoming, the Select Board proceeds to set the date for a special recall election that is between 64 and 90 days out (if this falls within 100 days of a regular election the recall vote can be part of the regular election.) (If an official resigns, the Select Board and the board/committee the resigning person was on meet jointly to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the next election.)
- The process for candidates to be included on the recall ballot are the same as they are for regular elections. The person being recalled can run in the recall election as well. The incumbent continues to serve until the recall election is held.
- The recall ballot is to consist of two parts. Part 1 asks voters whether the person named in the recall petition should be recalled. Part 2 lists the candidates for the recalled position. If the answer is yes to Part 1 the votes are counted for each candidate listed in Part 2 with a winner being declared.
No recall can be initiated within 3 months of being elected or within three months of a petition to recall an official. If an official is recalled and replaced by someone else or if the official resigns after the submittal of a recall petition the official shall not be appointed to any town office, board, or committee for a period of three years.
A community must have a special act of the state legislators approved to have a recall provision for locally elected officials. There are some communities that have similar special acts thus it is likely if Manchester voters approve the petition article such a special act would be approved. Whether or not such an act is necessary will be debated at the Special Town Meeting that will take place November 14. Only those in attendance at the open town meeting will be able to debate and vote on the article as is the case for all Town Meeting articles.