While the big boys (and girls) in Washington and thereabouts continue to stir their cauldron of political unrest, another albeit humbler controversy simmers on a smaller back burner known as the town of Lyman, Maine. There, two of three of the town’s top officials are in an uproar over the election of a third, namely the town’s transfer station operator. And according to them, no town employee should be allowed to run for, or, what’s worse, be elected to, public office.
Add to the mix that many of the townsfolk attended a recent standing-room-only meeting in mass protest of this development, and that a few of those dedicated residents are upping the ante by circulating a petition that they hope will lead to the ousting of one of the selectmen, and you have the makings of a situation that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that eternal conflict is alive and well even at the most local of levels. And in Maine, of all places, a state whose governor’s churlish comments aren’t always appreciated and whose politicians would tax the very air if they could figure out a cheap way to do it without defiling the countryside or creating too much noise in anyone’s back yard.
Enter center stage Lyman’s transfer station operator, Steve Marble, who ran for and won the most recent election, beating out former Maine state representative Joe Wagner who states simply, “Steve won. Steve’s a selectman.”
Residents are taking issue with the lawsuit on several levels, not the least of which is that it would be a waste of several thousand dollars-worth of taxpayer money, and that there is no known legal precedent. Lyman’s history shows that several similar alleged conflicts of interest have been allowed in the past, among them an instance when the town hired a former selectman, Paul Fecteau, to do landscaping work and when the town’s road commissioner, Maurice St. Clair, also served on the budget committee.
The other selectmen, Norman Hutchins and Leo Ruel contend that Marble has proven on two occasions that his positions clash by citing a recent meeting where he arrived late due to his transfer station duties and another instance at a Department of Transportation meeting when his time card reflected that he was still at the transfer station. When Marble was asked to resign from one of the positions, he refused, and according to town attorney Bill Dale and Ruel, the lawsuit would have been avoided had he done that.
What it all boils down to for many Lyman residents is that whoever voted for Steve Marble knew exactly who he was and where he worked, which suggests to some a gross disregard for their rights as voters. Some also worry that fears engendered by the lawsuit will keep others, including town employees, from seeking office, thus depleting the roster of willing and able candidates.
At least two of those present at the July 18 meeting concurred that the selectmen’s energies would best be spent not on further complicating the issue but rather on finding ways to make it work. When asked at the transfer station on a recent sunny afternoon why no one stopped him from running for office in the first place, Marble replied simply, “They’re trying to make new laws.”