ROWLEY — Concerned citizens are banding together to gather enough signatures to recall water board Commissioner Tim Toomey before a Nov. 6 deadline.
Led by longtime Rowley resident Mo Levasseur and supported by many, including water board Commissioner John Manning, ballots are being signed all over town by registered voters in an effort to reach the required approximately 1,200 signatures, or 25 percent of the voting population.
“I am doing this to provide a forum for the taxpayers and water ratepayers to have an outlet to get Chairman Toomey out of office — it’s our only option because he’s an elected official,” Levasseur said. “We feel the chairman is being negligent in his actions as chairman, with illegal executive sessions being held, and not focusing on the big issues that need attention.”
Reasons cited on the recall petition papers claim Toomey willfully ignored legal counsel advice from the town of Rowley about going into executive sessions and then making decisions in these meetings — placing the town’s water superintendent on leave and hiring an investigator for $5,000 as well as an interim superintendent for up to $90 an hour — that were not legally approved.
Kim Perilli, a resident of Dodge Road and one of the supporters of the recall, said she got involved because she was outraged to hear all about all the issues in the water department, which were described at a recent citizens meeting at the library.
“It raised my awareness so I felt I had to get involved,” she said. “He is an elected official who is supposed to do the right thing and get the job done, but he has gone rogue, and this is our only option to rectify the situation.”
Perilli created a Facebook page for supporters of the recall called Recall and Recover Rowley Water.
Manning, a fellow water board commissioner who did not participate in the executive sessions in question, described the recall effort as “an organic movement” where people who had tuned in to the various water board meetings and heard about the dysfunction within the department had enough, and then “banded together to take action.”
If enough signatures are gathered, they go to the town clerk for verification, and then, if verified, the town clerk will notify the Board of Selectmen that the number of certified signatures satisfies the bylaw requirement. At that time, selectmen must notify Toomey and allow five days for him to resign. If he does not, the board must call for a recall election, which must take place no less than 60 but no more than 90 days after the date of certification.
Toomey may choose to be a candidate in this election, and if he should resign before the recall election, the election still proceeds. If he is re-elected at the recall election, he would remain in office until his term expires, which is May 2017. If not re-elected, the successor would hold the office until the next regularly scheduled Town Meeting in May 2016.
When reached, Toomey said he had no comment regarding the recall.
The Rowley Water Department has experienced years of turmoil, beginning in January 2013 with an investigation into a $45,000 overage on the new garage addition built at the department’s 401 Central St. location that resulted in charges of misappropriation of funds, violations of procurement laws and insufficient bid documentation.
Then in February, the town was fined $25,000 by the DEP for the actions of the water department’s primary and secondary operators, who were found in illegal possession of untagged deer and with butchering deer at the Boxford Road well station.
Most recently, with Toomey as chairman of the water board, there have been contentious disagreements between him, the other water board members and selectmen, and Water Superintendent MaryBeth Wiser, which have resulted in 11 complaints against Toomey filed with the attorney general.
With this distraction, attention has been diverted from the critical needs in the department such as fixing issues with the new water treatment plant, repairing leaks in the water system, refurbishing the water tank and the road that leads to it, and replacing original water pipes that date back to the 1940s.