Police & Fire

Milo to hold special election after 4 officials resign

Milo will hold a special election June 3 to fill four vacancies on its Select Board after a cluster of resignations over the last week left just one member on the board.

Susan Libby resigned from the Milo Select Board last Friday, Donald Banker resigned Tuesday and Eric Foss resigned Wednesday, Town Manager Robert Canney said. Their resignations come about two months after a group of residents initiated a process to remove Banker, the former chairperson, from the board following a March 7 meeting between the three members that appeared to violate Maine’s public access law.

Another Select Board member, Stephanie Hurd, resigned last Thursday, partly because of the fallout from the meeting that has caused controversy in town, she told the Bangor Daily News last week.

The Select Board is left with only Paula Copeland, who was elected and chosen as chair on March 11. On Wednesday night, the town held its regular board meeting, where Copeland accepted the resignations and approved a June 3 special election, among a few other actions.

The election will take place before the next board meeting in June, Canney said.

“The town is able to carry on essential functions as usual,” the town’s attorney, Stephen Wagner of law firm Rudman Winchell, said Thursday. “Is it ideal? No. That’s why you have to call an election to fill those seats.”

Milo is the latest Maine town to grapple with dysfunction. Around the state, municipalities are dealing with departures of vital staff and elected officials, divisive politics and other issues.

Wagner told residents Wednesday night that the town is able to conduct business necessary to “keep the lights on,” even if a quorum of three members cannot gather due to vacancies.

Copeland’s ability to make a motion, second it and vote to approve an item without other board members is legal, in Wagner’s opinion. Maine law outlines that a vacancy on an elected municipal board “does not itself impair the authority of the remaining members to act,” unless a charter expressly prohibits it.

Wagner advised that “out of an abundance of caution,” the town should only act on essential items, and once new members are elected, the board should ratify actions taken by Copeland.

Libby, Banker and Foss met for a half-hour in an “illicit” meeting on March 7, where they discussed “many inappropriate things,” Copeland said in an April 22 statement

The BDN obtained a video of the meeting through a records request. In the video, which shows the three members in the town office lobby, they discuss the town manager’s performance and when to vote against renewing his contract, the police chief’s “whining” and the public works schedule.

Copeland said last month that the meeting created distrust between Milo’s elected officials and the public. It also raised red flags for Carolyn Ball, a retired University of Southern Maine professor who taught courses about local government and is now chair of the Southwest Harbor Select Board.

Libby and Banker did not respond to requests for comment about why they resigned.

Foss’ attorney, Jeff Russell of law firm Russell Johnson Beaupain, wrote to the BDN that his client “has a long and distinguished record of service” to the town and its citizens.

“He disagrees with the direction Ms. Copeland seeks to take the town, and accordingly, has stepped aside to pursue other opportunities,” he wrote. “He thanks the citizens of Milo for the opportunity to serve and wishes the town the best in its endeavors.”

Canney received resignations via email and text message, he said. He did not get any letters.

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