“What’s the point of having a law on the books if you’re not able to use it?” asked Milford resident Christine Crean.

Editor's Note: The day of the week of the Town Meeting has been corrected. The special Town Meeting is Wednesday, Oct. 2.

MILFORD – A Town Meeting vote Wednesday might make it easier to remove the town’s elected officials.

“The way I see it is that a recall should be able to be possible for the people,” said Mike Johnson, one of at least 200 Milford residents who signed a petition to get a bylaw changed before Town Meeting members.

The process for removing an elected official outside of regularly scheduled elections is called a recall.

Under the current Milford bylaws, 10 residents can initiate a recall, but signatures from 20% of the town’s more than 18,000 registered voters are required to complete it. Once the signatures are certified, the elected official in question can resign within five days. If that doesn’t happen, an election for that seat is scheduled. The recalled official is allowed to run in the election.

In order for results of the election to be valid, 25% of the town’s registered voters must cast ballots.

Those who support changing the bylaw say its current language makes it nearly impossible to recall an official.

“It’s really not an easy process to recall somebody, and it shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be a slam-dunk,” said petition signer Christine Crean, also the Town Democratic Committee Chairwoman. “It’s not taken lightly, but it is important that there’s a reasonable ability to achieve that, if needed.”

The proposal Wednesday would change the town’s bylaws by halving the percentage of required signatures, from 20% to 10%. It would also take aim at the number of people needed to make the results stick – cutting the percentage required to cast ballots from 25% to 15%.

Voter turnout in Milford’s annual town elections typically fails to reach 20% – which is not unusual in most town’s local elections. Special issue, state and presidential elections usually bring more people to the polls. Turnout in the 2019 Milford annual town election, held on April 2, was 13%.

“It would be nice if the percentages were higher, then there would be no need to make the change, but the trends have been going downhill,” Crean said, of voter turnout. “What’s the point of having a law on the books if you’re not able to use it?”

Many communities require similarly high percentages of residents to sign onto recall petitions.

Last November, a group of Milford residents led a campaign to recall Selectman William Kingkade Jr., but failed to collect the required number of signatures.

“Sometimes you look at a law or a bylaw, and it’s not until you actually have to use it you realize it’s not workable,” Crean said. “You look at that and say, ‘Wow, this is not really achievable, and it’s not a level playing field.’”


Milford's selectman recall petition fails

Johnson, one of the organizers of the recall effort, said his support for the initiative is about principle, not the current Board of Selectmen.

“It doesn’t really matter who’s in the chairs,” he said. “If elected officials know there’s a possibility of a recall, their conduct might be a little different.”

Wednesday’s Town Meeting was called solely for the purpose of addressing the bylaw change. There is nothing else on the warrant. The issue is citizen-led, with at least 200 residents signing on to request Town Meeting members vote on it.

This will be the first of two Special Town Meetings in October. Typically, towns have just one fall Town Meeting, if at all, usually meant to address items that cannot wait until the annual Town Meeting in the spring.

The state statute residents used to get the bylaw update before Town Meeting members requires a Town Meeting be called within 45 days of the request. The request was filed with the town Aug. 21, and Milford’s regularly scheduled meeting isn’t until Oct. 28 – past the 45-day timeline.

The Wednesday, Oct. 2, Town Meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 52 Main St.

Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or abosma@wickedlocal.com. Find her on Twitter at @AlisonBosma.