LOWELL — A superior court judge on Thursday denied a preliminary injunction that was a last-ditch legal effort to thwart the recall election of two Shirley selectmen at the end of the month.
In his decision, Lowell Superior Court Judge John Lu denied the joint request by Shirley selectmen Kendra Dumont and Robert Prescott — targets of the recall — for a preliminary injunction to stop the Jan. 30 recall election.
“There is no evidence of fraud or egregious misconduct,” Lu wrote in his decision, so he “will not take steps to interfere with the electoral process.”
At the Jan. 12 court hearing, both sides of the Shirley selectmen recall battle accused the other of trying to “circumvent” the political process.
But attorney Greg Corbo, who represents the Shirley town clerk and Board of Registrars, told the judge the recall election has already begun because absentee ballots have been filled out and returned.
The recall effort began after Shirley residents at Town Meeting voted to deny an approximate $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 to compensate for the failed salary increase. Selectman Enrico Cappucci was not in office at the time.
A recall affidavit and petition was circulated and yielded 479 signatures certified by the town clerk.
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.
At the hearing for the preliminary injunction, 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 throw 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.”
Lu’s decision comes two days after Dumont and Selectman Rico Cappucci on Tuesday followed a standard process and signed the warrant for the recall election of Prescott.
Another meeting is scheduled for Friday for Cappucci and Prescott to sign the warrant for Dumont’s recall.
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