HINSDALE -- Hundreds of Hinsdale residents voted on Wednesday to grant themselves new authority to recall elected and appointed officials.
At a special town meeting, 202 voted in favor and 95 against the proposed law, which a citizen's petition placed on the agenda.
"We got what we wanted," said David Kokindo, a former Selectman who led the effort in favor of granting voters this power. "This is how you control your government."
Once Hinsdale's recall power receives necessary approval by the state Legislature, "any holder of an elective office [in Hinsdale] may be removed" for reasons of "lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties, corruption, malfeasance, or violation of oath."
Opponents of the measure, who spoke on the floor at the meeting, said officials could be recalled for the stated reasons without the claims ever being substantiated.
Town Counsel Joel B. Bard agreed.
"This is not an investigation. It's not a fact-finding mission. It's not an adjudication. It's simply something for the individual residents to decide for themselves," Bard said.
"A small town like this shouldn't have gotten involved with all this business to begin with," said resident Rudy Pfieler. "We should be getting along and running the town's business."
After the Legislature approves the item, which may not happen until late 2014, 100 residents will be able to start recall procedures in Hinsdale. They'd require signatures from 20 percent of registered voters to spur a recall election.
At a recall election, voters would first decide whether the official against whom a petition is directed should be recalled.
Next, they'd decide by ballot who should fill the seat. The targeted official may run again for their position, and could retain their post if they received a majority vote, according to the law.
Critics also pointed out the cost of elections -- roughly $1,300 in Hinsdale.
Hinsdale voters, once the state grants them this authority, won't be unique among Massachusetts municipalities.
According to Bard, voters in 30 to 40 percent of the commonwealth's cities and towns possess similar recall powers. These laws differ from place to place, primarily in the grounds necessary to begin a recall procedure.
The state itself identifies no process to remove elected officials.
The recall initiative began in Hinsdale after a protracted disagreement over the employment of former Hinsdale Police Chief Nancy Daniels, who the Hinsdale Select Board has since fired.
Many residents' ire over Daniels' termination has been directed against Selectmen Bonnie Conner and William Goddard Jr. -- presumably the immediate targets of the new law.
The town's third Selectman, Bruce Marshall, supported the recall initiative.
In other business Wednesday, residents approved eight other warrant articles and rejected three.
The rejected articles pertained to legal expenses many residents opposed.
The approved articles comprised a number of cash transfers, most notably $12,210 to fund the Veterans Services-Veterans Aid for the last five months of the year, $10,000 to replace a culvert on Old Dalton Road and $8,585 to purchase and install a bronze veterans memorial plaque in the town. These funds will come from free cash.
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