SIGNED PETITIONS PRESENTED; SELECTMEN REFUSE TO RESIGN
News Staff photo by DAMIEN FISHER
|News Staff photo by DAMIEN FISHER|
Town Manager James Kreidler, left, and selectmen Fedor Berndt, Elizabeth Hunt and Keith Barrows talk about the recall petitions Thursday night.
In accordance with the town charter, Town Clerk Judy Lajoie presented the petitions to selectmen to give Mr. Berndt and Ms. Hunt the opportunity to resign. With neither selectman stepping down, the board set May 4 as the date for the special recall election.
This means that all five seats on the board are now up for election in May. The seats for incumbents Robert O’Keefe and Keith Barrows, and the seat vacated when C. Jackson Blair resigned last year, are already up for a vote.
For the recall, voters will be asked to vote for the recall or against the recall for both Mr. Berndt and Ms. Hunt. Under the terms of the charter, the recall vote is only valid if at least 20 percent of the town’s registered voters take part. That means the recall vote needs more than 1,200 people to participate.
A group of residents called Stand Up for Toy Town started the recall to remove the selectmen for not firing Town Manager James Kreidler in the middle of the town’s recent financial crisis. The group’s members have blamed Mr. Kreidler for the troubles.
The state Department of Revenue does not agree with Stand Up for Toy Town’s position. The DOR has cited a lack of communication and financial software system failures as driving factors behind the deficit, and that no one person or department in town was responsible for the crisis. The DOR has also said there is no evidence of fraud.
Most of the town’s deficit, about $2.4 million, comes from a combination of errors in the accounting of the town’s health insurance trust fund, and larger than anticipated medical bills from 13 catastrophic medical cases in an 18to 24-month period.
The rest of the deficit breaks down to about $600,000 attributed to overspending by the school department, and another possible $400,000 in snow and ice removal deficits and veterans services.
The town is receiving up to $6 million in a loan from the state to cover the $3.4 million deficit. Selectmen and Mr. Kreidler are working to pay off the debt as quickly as possible without raising taxes or cutting services.