By Angeljean Chiaramida
---- — SEABROOK — Two days after defeating five other candidates, including an incumbent, for a selectman's seat in Tuesday's annual town election, Eric Small has declined to assume the position due to a recently developed health concern.
According to Selectman Aboul Khan, Small delivered a letter declining the seat to Town Clerk Bonnie Fowler's office on Thursday. Fowler forwarded the letter to Town Manager Joe Titone yesterday morning.
Khan said selectmen had to scramble to deal with the situation, since Small was scheduled to be sworn in as selectman yesterday afternoon at about 5.
Selectmen called an emergency meeting at 1 p.m. yesterday to discuss their options with town counsel Robert Ciandella.
Khan said according to the town charter, the remaining selectmen are responsible for appointing a replacement to the seat. That replacement would serve for just one year, until next year's election, when the seat would be back on the ballot.
The charter also recommends that when a vacancy arises, selectmen move to appoint the runner-up for the seat whenever possible.
That would be retired Seabrook teacher Raymond Smith. Smith earned 279 votes in Tuesday's election, with Small tallying 327 votes to win the seat. The vote totals for the other candidates were Maria Brown, 172; incumbent Selectman Brendan Kelly, 152; Paula Wood, 92; and Paul Knowles 59.
Khan said it is his understanding that Smith is willing to serve for the one year, if appointed by selectmen. Titone contacted Smith yesterday on the advice of Ciandella.
Selectmen are scheduled to meet Wednesday in public session to debate the issue before making a decision.
Kelly, who lost his seat in Tuesday's election, said last night that since Smith was the second-highest vote-getter, the people's will should be honored and Smith should be given the option of filling the seat, as the charter recommends.
Tuesday's town election is also resulting in two recounts.
Knowles, who finished last in the selectman's race, has filed a recount. It is not believed that anyone can be sworn into the selectman's seat until the recount is completed.
Also, Tom O'Hara filed a request for a recount on Article 40, the citizens petition he authored that would have allowed fireworks displays to be shot off on private property in the beach district, a practice currently against town regulations. Article 40 lost by only two votes at the polls.
As of yesterday, the date for the recounts had not yet been set.