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New law lets Northfielders remove elected officials

NORTHFIELD — Residents now have a means to recall their elected officials.

At the May 2011 annual town meeting, voters approved the passage of a recall measure. It slowly made its way through the state Legislature, and Thursday, it was signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick.

If 100 or more registered voters living in Northfield sign a petition asking for the recall of an official and it’s certified by the town clerk, recall proceedings may begin.

The town clerk must then deliver notice of recall to the Selectboard, which in turn must give it to the elected official being recalled.

At that point, the official may step down within five days, or be subject to a recall election. The election must be held least 64 days, but not more than 90 days, after the initial five days. If, however, another election is scheduled within 100 days of the petition’s certification, the recall election may be held then instead.

In a recall election, the official may run against any challengers, and must continue in their duties until the election is held.

The ballot will list the names of the incumbent and any challengers, and will also ask voters if they are in favor of or against a recall.

Votes for the candidates will be tallied only if the majority of voters are in favor of recall.

If the incumbent is defeated, the victor will take over the recalled official’s position for the remainder of the term, once the newly elected person is qualified.

Failure to qualify within five days of the election would leave the post vacant, the incumbent removed and the winner deemed unable to serve.

The recall measure gives several causes for which an official may be recalled.

They may be recalled for “lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties, corruption, malfeasance or violation of oath,” as stated in the law.

It also states that nobody may be recalled within their first six months in office. If a recall measure fails, the official may not be the subject of another recall within six months of the failed recall election.

Officials who are removed by a recall election, or who step down after receipt of a recall petition, may not be appointed to any town office within two years of removal or resignation.

The law does not provide for the removal of holders of appointed offices. It also does not bar those removed by recall from being elected to any office.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413 772-0261, ext. 279

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