Fairhaven Recall Signatures Certified, But Selectman Fighting Back
FAIRHAVEN — The Town Clerk in Fairhaven has certified the necessary signatures and alerted the Board of Selectmen that the effort to recall Chairman Dan Freitas is now in the hands of the board.
However, Freitas has hired an attorney to look into whether the over 2,500 signatures are indeed valid. He told WBSM News via email that Attorney Ernest Horn “is representing me for the recall and the slanderous things said about me.”
Horn told WBSM News that he “does see what appears to be some irregularities” with some of the signatures.
The group calling itself Recall Dan Freitas had previously claimed Freitas “has increasingly demonstrated his inability or unwillingness to represent the people of Fairhaven,” accusing him of bully tactics and interfering with and mismanaging the search for a new Town Administrator. The group sought to seek the signatures needed to force a recall election, which it said were turned into the Town Clerk’s office last week.
On Monday, May 3, Town Clerk Carolyn Hurley sent the required correspondence to the Board of Selectmen after the four-person Board of Registrars certified the 2,521 signatures on the petition to recall Freitas. The correspondence reads:
“Pursuant to § 502-4, Section 3 of the Town Code, I submit to you a petition for the recall of Daniel Freitas as selectmen (sic), upon which 2521 signatures have been certified by the registrars of voters to be the names of registered voters in the Town of Fairhaven, being at least 20 percent of the total number of registered voters duly recorded on the registration list of the Town clerk as of the preceding Town Election.”
Per town by-laws, Freitas has five days from the time the Board of Selectmen was notified to resign his position or face a recall election. He would be allowed to run for his seat in the election, which if he does not resign, must be held no less than 60 days after the board’s notification and no more than 90 days after.
Freitas had previously told WBSM News that if the group got the required number of certified signatures that he would resign and not seek re-election. “Nothing is worth the smear campaign I have been through,” he said on April 26.
However, Horn said as his attorney, he is advising Freitas not to resign because of those “irregularities” he sees with some of the signatures on the recall petition.
“We are in the process of looking at the signature list to see if the signatures met the statutory requirements, such as it must be reasonably clear who they are, and obviously they can’t be fraudulent,” Horn said. “We do see what appear to be some irregularities. If those irregularities end up being fraudulent, we will request there be a criminal referral to the state attorney general’s office.”
Ann Richard of the Recall Dan Freitas group issued a statement Tuesday regarding Freitas retaining Horn as his attorney to question the petition.
“Attorney Horn (the same attorney who represented Ms. Wendy Graves in claims against Selectman Espindola) alleges ‘discrepancies’ in the recall petition,” Richard said, noting the issues between Graves, the interim Town Administrator backed by Freitas for the permanent job, and Selectman Robert Espindola. “This is an affront to the legitimate process that was
followed and a blatant insult to the 2,500-plus voters who signed that petition in good faith.”
“Mr. Freitas publicly proclaimed – twice – that he would resign if the 20 percent threshold was met,” Richard said. “Once again, he is going back on his word and showing an egregious disregard for our town’s civic process.”
If Freitas and Horn do challenge any of the signatures, it will not alter the timeline of the recall election unless so ordered by a judge.
“There is no provision in the recall law for a stay in the event there is a challenge to the certification of the signatures,” Town Clerk Carolyn Hurley told WBSM News. “Unless a court orders a stay, the recall law requires that the process go forward for an election within 60 to 90 days of certification.”