March 8, 2013

Outraged Pittston residents sign petitions, vow recall over town clerk's dismissal

By Paul Koenig
Staff Writer

PITTSTON — Following the sudden firing of the longtime town clerk, hundreds of upset residents are calling for the recall of the three-member Board of Selectmen and the remaining town office staff.

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Several hundred Pittston residents line up in the cold Thursday evening to sign petitions to recall the selectmen and town staff, following the termination of Ann Chadwick, 75, from town positions. Selectmen voted Wednesday to "not reappoint" Chadwick. Chadwick's supporters pledged to present the petitions at the annual town meeting on March 18.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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Pittston residents line up in the cold Thursday evening to sign petitions to recall selectmen following the termination of Ann Chadwick, 75, from town positions.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Additional Photos Below

The three selectmen voted Wednesday night to not reappoint Ann Chadwick as town clerk after an executive session discussion and were met immediately with shouts of protest from a crowd of about 100 at the Pittston Town Office.

Thursday night, the outrage swelled as hundreds of residents waited in long lines outside the fire station to sign petitions calling for the recall of the Pittston town officials.

A small group of Chadwick's relatives and other supporters have gathered more than twice the number of signatures required by town ordinance to trigger a recall of the three board members, according to Laurel Chadwick, Ann Chadwick's daughter.

Chadwick's relatives also want the two town office employees removed because they think the two were involved in Chadwick's firing. However, the remaining office staff — Natalie Jackson, administrative secretary to the selectmen; and Rose Webster, interim town clerk, treasurer and tax collector — can't actually be recalled, because they're appointed by the selectmen, and not elected to their positions.

Tracy Johnson, Chadwick's niece, said they want a temporary Board of Selectmen instated and want it to rehire her aunt as town clerk. She said the group will meet over the weekend to figure out the next course of action and may submit the petitions Monday.

A town ordinance spells out how a recall will happen: Petitioners must present a number of signatures that equals at least 10 percent of Pittston voters who participated in the most recent gubernatorial election — in this case, 137. Laurel Chadwick said Friday the petitioners have gathered around 330 signatures.

Once a petition has been received, the town has 10 days to certify the signatures and pass them on to the selectmen. The board then has 10 days to order an election by secret ballot, which may be held 30 to 60 days after that.

"The whole point is really just support for Ann," Johnson said. "I think the number of people that came out both nights is an amazing show of support that people are just not happy with the way things happened."

Chadwick, 75, who had worked for the town for more than 20 years, didn't respond to multiple calls for comment Friday.

Selectman Tim Marks, who is also a state representative for the area, said he's considering resigning as a result of the community reaction.

"I'm not married to the job, and it's not much fun right now," Marks said Friday. "I did what I thought was the right thing to do, and I did what I thought was best for the town. And apparently they want my position. We, as a select board, were united in this."

Marks told the crowd Wednesday that the decision was "a personnel issue," and he didn't elaborate. He said Friday the board members will issue a statement next week after having a chance to meet.

"There are two sides of the story, and only one side of the story has been heard," Marks said. "The other side will be public shortly."

The Kennebec Journal has made a public records request for the letter to Chadwick giving the reason for her dismissal, but the newspaper had not received a response by late Friday.

Chadwick said Wednesday that she had offered to retire after the March 18 election. The annual Town Meeting is set for March 16.

Johnson said there isn't anything she knows of that's significant enough to justify the board firing her aunt.

"She just wants some respect," Johnson said of Chadwick. "She just doesn't want people to think she's done something wrong that would warrant her dismissal."

Calls to the other board members — Wanda Burns-Macomber and Ted Sparrow Jr. — were not returned Friday. Burns-Macomber's three-year term ends this year, and she had planned to run for re-election.

Chadwick was paid about $31,700 as town clerk last year. Webster and Jackson were paid $35,334 and $30,700, respectively.

Selectmen are paid $5,000 and the board chairman is paid $5,500.

Lisa Hall, 42, a Pittston resident who signed the petitions, said Chadwick always greeted her and others with a smile at the Town Office.

"She knows everything about everybody. Everyone else in the office, you're like a number to them," Hall said.

Laurel Chadwick said she's disappointed her mother wasn't treated with the respect, dignity and kindness that she deserved.

"I think the townspeople want to be heard," she said. "Obviously, when you vote for somebody, you hope they'll work in your best interest. It's amazing, the support the community has shown, truly a proud moment to be a member of this town."

Johnson said family members called friends and posted on Facebook to encourage people to attend the Wednesday meeting and sign the petitions Thursday night.

She said some people had to wait more than an hour to sign the petitions.

"She's just so loved by this town," Johnson said of her aunt. "There isn't anyone you'll find that doesn't have a kind word to say about her."

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

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Additional Photos

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Ann Chadwick

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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Tim Marks

Staff file photo by Joe Phelan


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