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Petitioner wants recall powers for town Friday, March 14, 2003
D. Craig MacCormack Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- A Foley Drive resident wants to see more accountability for elected officials and will push Town Meeting voters to support his petition article allowing the town to implement a mechanism to recall those in power.

Steven Hakar last night told selectmen his article, which is one of 45 on the April 22 warrant, displays "the epitome of democracy.  It keeps officials honest and holds them accountable.

"This is considered a safeguard more than a remedy act.  It gives more power to the citizens.  It's another chance for evaluation," he said.

Selectmen recommended sending the article to the Government Study Committee for further review, but Hakar's measure will remain on the warrant and can be revised before Town Meeting convenes.

"It sounds like a process that lends itself to single-issue votes," said Selectman John Kahn.  He also bristled at the idea that a recall election could mean a candidate would grab a seat without securing a majority of the votes.

Hakar's effort, modeled largely after one in place in Maynard, would require 5 percent of the town's registered voters to ask for the recall after 108 voters submitted an affidavit to the town clerk with the name of the official.

If a recall election is triggered, voters can either go against the motion and keep the official in office or vote for the recall and choose from a pool of replacement candidates on the ballot, said Hakar.

Officials being recalled must have at least six months in office but no less than six months remaining on their terms.

That would rule out recalling the moderator, said selectmen Vice Chairman Charles Sisitsky, because that term runs for one year.

Chairman Esther Hopkins questioned Hakar's article, saying the recalled official seems to have no opportunity to squelch rumors lodged against him or her before the matter goes to a vote.

Sixteen states have recall election regulations on the books.

The 5 percent threshold, said Hakar, is enough to keep personal vendettas from becoming recall initiatives.  Selectman Ginger Esty agreed. "It's always important to empower the voters if something egregious occurs.  I don't think ordinary rumors would carry the day," she said.

Hopkins wants more of a safeguard, she said.

"This doesn't protect against that," she said.

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