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SHIRLEY — Backers of a recall effort targeting Selectmen Bob Prescott and Kendra Dumont say “at least 50” of the affidavit signatures have been verified by the Board of Registrars, although no potential candidates for their positions have stepped forward.

The move is the first attempt to use the town’s brand-new recall law, which took effect at the start of August. The affidavit’s call for the removal of the two selectmen under the claim of “depraved indifference” to the voters’ will. Voters twice voted down a raise for Town Administrator Patrice Garvin in two Town Meetings; the Board of Selectmen opted instead to compensate for the raise she didn’t get by substituting added health insurance benefits, with the arrangement to continue in subsequent years if no raise was appropriated.

Town Clerk Amy McDougall said letters have been sent out to the first 10 people who signed the affidavits, along with petitions, each one officially endorsed with the town seal. The letter states that the enclosed petitions should not be copied and that if more are needed, she will provide them.

Two of the proponents — local hardware store owner and former town electrical inspector Jim Thibault and retired former Council on Aging director John Oelfke — spoke out in separate interviews about what they hope the recall will accomplish.

Thibault, one of the original petitioners, said he and Oelfke and at least eight other citizens — the top 10 on the affidavit — are ready and willing to collect signatures for a recall election and prepared to explain what it’s all about.

As for who might step up to take the two selectmen’s place, whether they choose to resign or run in the recall election by default, Oelfke said he couldn’t name anyone yet.

Thibault said he’s not actively recruiting “yet” but knows of one potential candidate so far.

“I think there will be people interested in running, maybe even more so because they are fired up,” he said.

According to the town clerk and based on restrictions in the recall act and existing election parameters, even if the recall drive yields enough signatures (at least 400) it couldn’t take place before the end of this year.

“We’re hoping for January,” Oelfke said.

Ten percent of total registered voters must sign and be certified for the recall election to take place, McDougall said, adding that the number is a moving target as registration fluctuates.

Although the trigger point for the recall is spelled out in the affidavit, the perceived official wrongs the two proponents mentioned in conversation were more diverse, ranging from financial management to hiring practices to the conduct of selectmen’s meetings. Some items on their lists refer to incidents after the Town meeting vote, such as the selectmen’s refusal to appoint to town boards any of the “litigants” in a state land court case challenging the town’s actions on the Patterson Road solar project.

Oelfke said it was not a lawsuit, as such. Citizens exercising their rights shouldn’t be punished for it, he said.

“The question is: Is this the government the town wants?” he said.

But none of these municipal miscues showed up in the affidavit, which ties the proposed recall to a single issue.

“This act (the administrator’s amended contract) is a direct affront” to the voters and amounts to a “clear and present danger to the Town Meeting form of government,” the affidavit states.

It concludes with a quote from the Declaration of Independence that cites the people’s right and duty to “throw off” a government they deem to be despotic and to “invite new guards” to take over.

Both Oelfke and Thibault think that time has come for Shirley.

But why not wait until the annual Town Election in May, campaign for a reform candidate and seat a new selectman to tip the balance of town government rather than try to topple it like this?

Oelfke dismissed the idea. “They could do a lot of damage” in those added months, he said. “This is really about abuse of power.”

Asked what he’d have done in the selectmen’s place, faced with a signed contract that Town Meeting refused to fund, Oelfke didn’t hesitate. “Nothing,” he said. He’d have acceded to the people’s wishes.

Given a few months to recover the people’s trust, the proposal for a raise might have made it in the next round, he opined.

Thibault agreed. He also said that the outcome of the recall effort would be the last word as far as he’s concerned. “Whichever way it goes, that’s the end of it,” he said. “The people will have decided.”

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