Charlemont recall provision ready for town counsel review


Staff Writer

Published: 02-03-2023 8:17 PM

CHARLEMONT — Inspired by a petition article that came before Annual Town Meeting last year, the Charlemont Recall Provision Committee has nearly finished a draft of a recall election provision that will soon head to town counsel for review.

“Having this on the books allows Charlemont to enact the worst-case scenario if it were to come to pass,” said Christopher Geier, a member of the Charlemont Recall Provision Committee.

Resident Ashley Sparks first proposed a bylaw to recall town officials through a petition article that was discussed at the May 2022 Town Meeting. Her proposal spelled out how to file a recall petition and the process by which a recall election would be set. However, instead of voting on the petition at Town Meeting, voters decided to create a committee to draft the provision through the proper means. Eight months later, a draft is nearly complete.

The committee based its work on a similar provision in Colrain. Members decided to use Colrain as a model after studying 40 other towns’ recall provisions, Geier said.

“We stuck close to Colrain’s language because it had already been legally scrutinized,” said Wilder Sparks, a member of the Charlemont Recall Provision Committee and husband of Ashley Sparks.

During the committee’s research, members found out that the recall would be added as a provision to the town’s records and not as a bylaw. Members, who at first assumed they were making a new bylaw, changed the name from “Recall Bylaw Committee” to “Recall Provision Committee” to reflect this.

They decided to set a threshold of requiring signatures from 50 voters to get the process started. After the signatures are collected, the town clerk will create forms to distribute to voters. Once 10% of the registered voters have signed these forms, the recall request will be brought to the Selectboard.

According to Wilder Sparks, committee members decided on 50 signatures because they thought this was a high enough threshold, but also still achievable. There are about 945 registered voters in town, so 50 signatures represents about 5% of the voting population.

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Once the signatures have been certified, the Selectboard will call an election. The election must be at least 64 days later, but no more than 90 days later. The committee noted that if there is already an election planned within 100 days, it is acceptable to wait for that election to hold a vote.

The recall ballot will ask voters if the elected official should be recalled. There will also be a second question containing new candidates for that same position. The person who is being recalled cannot be included on that second question on the ballot.

The person being recalled must be in office for at least six months. If successfully recalled, he or she cannot be appointed to any town position for a year after the recall.

Annual Town Meeting attendees drew a connection between this provision and Hawlemont Regional School District School Committee’s no-confidence vote and the mass resignation of members early last year. However, the creators of the recall provision said this is an attempt to put a safeguard in place and is not related to this incident.

“We were focused on something that would be a positive for the town more broadly,” Geier explained when asked if there was a connection.

If all goes well, the provision will be placed on this spring’s Annual Town Meeting warrant for voter approval.

“My hope is that when it is presented to the town, people can get behind it,” Wilder Sparks said. “This is something everyone can support and feel it is useful and fair.”

Bella Levavi can be reached at or 413-930-4579.