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Hancock Town Council members discuss possible changes to charter

Election requirements, how to break an election tie and firing a council member were among top issues

April 11, 2013|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

Election requirements, how to break an election tie and firing a council member were among the issues raised this week as the Hancock Town Council discussed possible changes to the town charter.

One election requirement, that council members running for mayor first resign their seats, came up in January’s municipal election. Two councilmen, Nigel Dardar and Tim Smith resigned their seats to run against incumbent Mayor Daniel Murphy.

That might not be the case in the future, at least for a person in Dardar’s position, whose four-year council term was about to expire. Smith resigned in the middle of his term to run.

Murphy said the consensus of the council from a workshop session was that a council member serving out a term should not have to resign to run for mayor.

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However, in the case of a council member who decides to run for the mayor’s office midway through their term, they should resign because they had made a commitment to voters to serve the full four years, Councilman Sinclair Hamilton said.

Hancock asked other town councils about their policies for removing a council member from office, because Hancock has no such provision, Murphy said. Some required as much as a four-fifths majority of council, others required recall petitions signed by a certain percentage of residents or voters, he said.

As far as grounds for removing someone from their council seat, a number of municipalities have provisions to do so if an elected official is charged with a felony, or a misdemeanor related to their official duties, Murphy said. Missing three consecutive meetings without a legitimate excuse is grounds for removal in other towns, he said.

Currently, a town manager can be dismissed solely at the discretion of the mayor, but that could change to require a vote by the council, Murphy said. Now in his ninth term, Murphy said he has never fired a manager, though some have left for other jobs.

“It shouldn’t be up to just the mayor to fire the town manager,” Hamilton said. Making dismissal a matter for a council vote “gives the town manager more security,” he said.

“None of this is etched in stone,” Murphy said.

Councilman Ralph Salvagno said there should be a public forum before the council makes any decision on changing the charter.

In the event of a tie vote in a municipal election, Murphy said a survey of other towns came up with a variety of methods to resolve the matter. Some towns hold special elections, in others the tie goes to the incumbent and at least one settles the issue by having candidates draw lots, he said.

Murphy said he could not remember there ever being a tie in a local race and a special election might not be too burdensome.

“If it happens once in 50 years, what did it cost you?” Murphy said.

“I favor rock-paper-scissors,” Hamilton joked.

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