SHIRLEY -- The so-called "recall" petition that has been circulating for some time is now officially in the pipeline.

A Citizens Petition, seeking a Special Town Meeting and reportedly with over 300 signatures on it, was delivered to the Town Offices this week.

The warrant article the petition seeks to forward is as follows: "To see if the Town will vote to petition the Great and General Court to adopt a special act in substantially the form set forth below* and to allow the Legislature to make necessary clerical changes, or take any other action relative thereto."

* The Act Providing For Recall Elections in the Town of Shirley describes in detail how the process works. Sections 1-7 are essentially steps in the process, with terms defined.

"Any holder of an elective office in the Town of Shirley may be recalled from office for any reason by the registered voters of the town as provided in this act."

But first, there must be an Act, which is what the Citizens Petition aims to accomplish.

According to Mass General Law 39:10, which is cited in the petition, the Board of Selectmen must call a Special Town Meeting, if requested to do so, in writing, by 200 residents and registered voters of the town whose addresses must also be included on the petition and whose signatures and status can be confirmed in the verification process.

According to one of the initial petitioners, James Thibault, the effort mounted by a group of concerned citizens had a general rather than a specific purpose.


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As it stands now, he said, there's no way to remove and replace a member of any elected town board who leaves without resigning, tying up that seat until the next election.

More likely than not, however, proponents had a more immediate goal in mind.

It's no secret the selectmen and the town administrator have been under fire and some residents and town employees are dissatisfied with municipal policies and practices under the current administration.

Take the budget-balancing reductions selectmen forwarded at the last Town Meeting.

Voters said no, loud and clear. Based on Town Administrator Patrice Garvin's plan to trim costs and streamline operations, proposed cuts that targeted town employee positions and salaries were rejected. Each position was restored, one line item at a time.

Now comes the petition.

The town of Shirley has no such act under state law now but if Town Meeting approves the measure as presented and state legislators pass it into law, the recall process will then exist in Shirley as it does in other Massachusetts municipalities such as the neighboring town of Lancaster, which recalled its Board of Selectmen in 2013.

It is a complex, even ponderous, process as the legislation probably intended, Town Clerk Amy McDougall said, given the seriousness of its purpose.

Key elements include filing a "recall affidavit" signed by 50 registered voters for each officer named in the recall and with a reason given for doing so in each instance.

The first 10 petitioners who circulated the original petition must obtain another 400 signatures, representing 10 percent of the town's registered voters in order to "demand" a recall election, with the outcome decided by majority vote, as with other town elections.

For now, though, the citizens petition seeks only the first step: STM approval to file a Home Rule Petition aimed at Special Legislation to allow recall elections.

Only then can elected officials be ousted and replaced via a legal and specific process spelled out in the act.

In response to a phone call from the Shirley Oracle Tuesday morning, the selectmen's executive assistant, Kathleen Rocco, confirmed that the citizens petition was received in the selectmen's office and would be handled accordingly.

Town Clerk Amy McDougall provided added information Tuesday afternoon.

After the document was delivered to her Monday evening, when her office was open to the public, McDougall notified the selectmen and turned the document over next morning, she said.

She has already begun verifying the signatures, McDougall said. 

Asked when the selectmen were likely to discuss the matter in public, Rocco said it could be on the agenda for their next regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night, Aug. 10.