OGUNQUIT, Maine — The special election held last month to fill a vacant seat on the Ogunquit Select Board has been invalidated.
Too few votes were cast in the uncontested race, so the candidate who was sworn in this month after being declared the winner, Robert Whitelaw, has been booted from the board, Ogunquit Town Clerk Chris Murphy said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
To achieve a quorum for a special town meeting, the number of eligible votes must be at least 25% of the number of eligible votes cast in Ogunquit in the last gubernatorial election, according to the town charter. With only 113 votes cast in March, the town didn’t meet that quorum threshold, Murphy said.
“While I was aware of the quorum provision, it was my understanding that it applied to
referendum questions and not candidate elections,” she said. “After consulting with the Town Attorney, out of an abundance of caution, I have invalidated the results of the election.”
The group of townspeople that released a memo Tuesday outlining the lack of a quorum argued that subsequent actions taken by the Select Board must be invalidated as well, since Whitelaw was seated. Murphy rejected that assertion.
“Mr. Whitelaw only participated in two meetings of the Select Board. With regards to actions taken by the Board with Mr. Whitelaw’s participation, we have reviewed the meeting votes,” Murphy said. “All votes passed with majority of three that did not require the vote of Mr. Whitelaw for passage. Therefore, those votes remain undisturbed, and no actions need to be reconsidered or re-voted.”
Whitelaw won’t participate in future Select Board meetings unless he wins in the annual town meeting vote on June 8. He and one other candidate, Scott Vogel, are running for two available seats.
Murphy said the Select Board intends to ask the Charter Review Commission to take a look at the quorum rules and determine whether the threshold is appropriate.