LOWELL — With each side in the Shirley selectmen recall battle accusing the other of trying to “circumvent” the process, a superior court judge warned both sides on Thursday he will rule on a preliminary injuction designed to stop the recall probably only days before the election.
Lowell Superior Court Judge John Lu’s decision on whether to grant a preliminary injunction to Shirley selectmen Kendra Dumont and Robert Prescott — the targets of the recall petition — will be issued “late next week” close to the Jan. 30 recall election.
But attorney Greg Corbo, who represents the Shirley Town Clerk and Board of Registrars, told the judge it may already be too late.
Corbo said the recall election has already begun because absentee ballots have been filled out and returned.
“With the election already underway, the court should be cautious about intervening,” Corbo told the judge. “If it is stopped (the recall election) what happens to those votes?”
The recall effort began after the annual Shirley Town Meeting in April of 2015, followed by a Special Town Meeting in June of 2015. Residents voted to deny less than a $2,000 increase in Town Administrator Patrice Garvin’s salary as negotiated by the Board of Selectmen.
Dumont and Prescott were accused of circumventing the Town Meeting vote by granting an increase in Garvin’s health insurance benefits. Selectman Erico Cappucci was not in office at the time.
Efforts to recall Dumont and Prescott culminated in a recall affidavit and petition, with 479 signatures certified by the town clerk. But on Nov. 21, Dumont and Prescott, through attorney John Dombrowski, filed a motion in superior court for a preliminary injunction to stop the recall election.
In court on Thursday, Dombrowski argued that the affidavit detailing the reasons for the recall contains “false and misleading” information and the signature verification process was flawed.
“Some disgruntled former employees went to Town Meeting and didn’t like what the Board of Selectmen did,”‘ Dombrowski told the judge.
Attorney Gary Beckett, who represents the 10 recall supporters in the complaint, argued that Dumont and Prescott tried to circumvent Town Meeting’s authority to approve funding for the town budget, by voting for an increase in health benefits.
Beckett told the judge, “Even if you accept the allegations (made by Dombrowski) are true, it is not a sufficient basis to through out the recall petition.”
He added, “As long as there is no evidence of fraud or misconduct there is no reason for invalidating the (recall) petition.”
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