Monday, September 10, 2007

Mansfield Recall

What a difference a week makes.

On August 16th Selectman Lou Amoruso was quoted saying he believed in the recall process, and that it was in place for a reason.

“It works. That’s the important thing,” Amoruso said. The selectman later added “If they can’t find 5 percent of the people who aren’t happy with me, then I’m not doing my job.”

But Amorosu seems to have had a change of heart. Just a week later, the veteran selectman was singing quite a different tune. Along with two other selectmen, he voted to ask for a review of the recall petition by a special counsel to determine its legality.

Amoruso and Selectman David McCarter, the two targets of the recall, now have suggested the petition and the process itself are flawed. Amoruso even talked about possibly suing to stop the recall, the process he said only a week earlier “works.”

McCarter told the board the recall petition “does not rise to the level of an affidavit.” He also claimed the petition talks about the verdict delivered against the town recently, but notes no individual names appear in the verdict.

“I believe the statement is a half truth,” McCarter said. I do not see my name, or your name, or the board of light commissioners in the verdict,” he told Amoruso during their meeting.

Unlike McCarter, I am not a lawyer. But I can read a verdict, and my reading of the verdict posted on the town web site seems to show otherwise.

The defendants listed on the verdict are “Town of Mansfield Municipal Electric Department and John D’Agostino.” The members of the Board of Selectmen also serve as the Board of Light Commissioners. In that capacity they oversee the operation of the Electric Department. As selectmen, they also are responsible for D’Agostino. That would include Amoruso and McCarter.

The point of names not appearing in the verdict is just plain silly. Your name does not need to appear on a verdict to make a recall legal. The recall process is deliberately vague as to the reasons for allowing recall. The charter was designed that way, believing it best to leave the final question of validity up to those best equipped to decide it – the voters of Mansfield.

Most of the objections to the process stated by Amoruso and McCarter are groundless and nothing more than a smokescreen designed to damage the credibility of the recall effort. But unless the two selectmen are careful, the only credibility they may seriously damage is what remains of their own.

The process being followed is no different from the ones that have taken place in the past. The legality of the recall provision of the Town Charter has been unquestioned prior to now. If selectmen have questions about the process, it is curious they did not bring them up until they were personally affected.

Amoruso and McCarter should fight with all their might if they believe they have done nothing deserving of a recall. They should tell the voters that in a loud and clear manner. The citizens of Mansfield deserve nothing less.

But to tell those voters the system is important and works one week, and then question it a week later does nothing to advance their own cause. It smacks of politics and desperation, neither of which is attractive in a leader.

If the recall is groundless, the voters will tell us. But it has been done in accordance with the rules and the law, and that needs to be respected. It is time for Mansfield’s leaders to stop playing games, and prepare to stand on their records and their performance.

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