TOWNSEND -- A recall election scheduled for Monday will not take place after courts blocked recall efforts against both Selectman Cindy King and Selectman Gordon Clark.
A Middlesex Superior Court justice issued an injunction Friday afternoon preventing Clark's recall. Two days earlier, a single justice of the state Supreme Judicial Court upheld a ruling preventing King's recall from proceeding. In both cases, justices wrote that the reasons cited on recall petitions did not fit the specific criteria necessary under a special act governing recalls in Townsend.
The decisions bring a sudden halt to a political battle that had engulfed the town for months. Residents outraged with what they perceived as Board of Selectmen overreach began collecting signatures for a recall in February, shouted allegations at board members during meetings and lawns dotted with pro-recall signs.
In his Friday decision to issue an injunction against Clark's recall, Middlesex Superior Court Justice Garry Inge cited an Appeals Court ruling from earlier this month blocking King's recall.
"There is nothing of substance to distinguish the (Clark) matter from the King case," Inge wrote. "Just as in King, in order to successfully pursue recall of Clark, the Defendants must comply with the Recall Act. This, the Defendants have not done.
Justices in both cases agreed that the allegations listed in recall petitions did not fit into the descriptions of misfeasance and neglect of duty as laid out in Townsend's special act.
Inge also wrote that the "balance of harm" favored Clark, not the recall supporters.
"Allowing the recall election may negatively impact his reputation in the community and, given the lower voter turnout typical for recall elections, his campaign efforts are less likely to succeed," Inge wrote. "Analyzing the possible harm to the public also weighs in favor of enjoining the recall election as such a proceeding 'would be both disruptive and expensive' for the Defendants and the other citizens of the town."
Joe Shank, a leader of the recall movement, could not be reached for immediate comment. But Ira Zaleznik, the attorney who represented the recall petitioners in each of the court cases, said Inge's decision is a "serious blow to the democratic process."
"We hope that there will be accountability going forward," Zaleznik said.
With the recall scheduled months ago to take place June 19, Zaleznik said there is "nothing (he) could do to save the election on Monday."
Clark said he is happy with the decision and hopes to see what he described as attacks on his reputation cease.
"I'm calling on all people to stop the slanderous and libelous assault on my life," Clark said. "We need to move forward in these times. I'm asking all people to come together, put this behind them and become a loving, caring town again. It's time to clean up the hate and mistruth."
King's legal challenge against the recall began in March.
A Middlesex Superior Court justice initially denied her request for an injunction before a state Appeals Court justice overruled that decision and prevented the recall from proceeding. A Supreme Judicial Court justice then upheld that decision.
Clark filed a last-minute case last week, prompting an emergency hearing in Woburn on Thursday.
Town Clerk Kathleen Spofford said her office was working Friday afternoon to notify the town that Monday's election is canceled. The next election, a vote on a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion for an accelerated renovation program in the North Middlesex Regional School District, will take place July 18.
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