NEWBURYPORT — Opt Out Newburyport, a group asking residents to vote "yes" on Nov. 5 to ban retail marijuana stores in the community, is under fire for claiming city government has "aligned" with its mission and for allegedly placing political signs on public property.
On Friday morning, the group posted a link to its email campaign on Facebook thanking Mayor Donna Holaday and the School Committee for organizing a vaping forum, which Opt Out Newburyport believes directly correlates to its mission.
The group wrote, "Thank you to Mayor Holaday and The Newburyport School Committee for putting this together and becoming aligned with us and this very important initiative to make Newburyport safer and healthier."
The forum, designed for the public to learn about the risks of vaping, is set to begin today at 7 p.m. in the Nock/Molin School auditorium, 70 Low St.
When asked if this group had any affiliation with the forum tonight, Holaday said, "Absolutely not."
The mayor said she issued a statement to the group Friday night, asking Opt Out Newburyport to remove the post from its page.
"They took it upon themselves to thank me and the School Committee for supporting their initiative," she said.
"We don't take political positions like this as a body," Holaday continued.
As of Sunday night, the group had not removed the statement from its Facebook page.
Holaday said the forum has been in the works "for a while."
The speakers include Cynthia Grondin, a vaping expert and research scientist at North Carolina State University; Gary Gastman, executive director of addiction and counseling services for families and students at Link House; and Cathy Riccio, a nurse and supervisor of health services for Newburyport Public Schools.
"It's an educational forum," Holaday said. "We don't take a position. We just present information."
The group's signs have also been found illegally placed on public property, including the Cherry Hill soccer fields and Newburyport Public Schools.
"Political signs have to be on private property," Holaday said. "It's straightforward. It can't be on public property."
"People called and were concerned about the signs at the soccer field," she said. "I told them to just pull them."
Holaday said she plans to discuss the matter with City Clerk Richard Jones today. She wants the city to do a full sweep to "pull any of the signs that are not in places they should be."
Opt Out Newburyport did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday night.
Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.