Mike Demos, Peter Riordan, and Mike Berolini recall, Bridgewater, Massachusetts (2012)
Demos represented District 3, while Riordan represented District 7. Recall proponents cited Demos and Riordan's "unwillingness to work within the provisions of the town charter as the reason for recall. In December 2011, recall organizers announced that they would also be pursuing the recall of Mike Berolini, another Bridgewater town councilor. The recall effort against Berolini was later dropped. Berolini is a councilor-at-large.
The Town of Bridgewater is a city in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, approximately 30 miles south of Boston. According to the 2010 Census, Bridgewater has a population of 26,563. Bridgewater was formerly governed on the local level by the open town meeting form of government, led by a board of selectmen, until January 2011. There are nine members of the town council.
Path to the ballot
First recall attempt
On September 12, 2011, recall organizers submitted the signatures of 193 District 3 voters and 133 District 7 voters. The town clerk's office had five business days to certify the signatures. The original signatures were certified, and on October 6, organizers submitted a second round of petitions signed by 388 people in District 3 and 301 people in District 7. In order to move a recall election forward, petitions needed to be signed by 10% of district voters. District 3 has about 2,700 voters, meaning 280 valid signatures are necessary to force a recall election. District 7 has about 2,500 voters, meaning 245 valid signatures are required. The Board of Registrars certified the petitions on October 18. A recall election, set by the town council, would have normally taken place 60 to 90 days after certification. Recall organizers would have needed to submit 1,500 signatures to force a recall election for Berolini.
Conflicting interpretations of recall law
The town council scheduled a hearing for October 18, 2011, to investigate the recall process. The investigation was initiated by a letter sent from Demos and Riordan's attorney, Anthony Pignone. The controversy revolved around the 1990 Special Act governing recalls in Bridewater. The act requires petitioners to collect signatures from 10% of registered voters in Bridgewater. On July 18, former Associate Town Counsel Stacy Blundell said that provision should be interpreted to mean 10% of district voters in the case of a district councilor. Pignone argued that the town council could refuse to set a recall election date on the grounds that the Special Act is invalid and that the town's charter, which does not provide a recall option, supersedes the Special Act.
In late October 2011, the Bridgewater town manager hired attorney Jason Buffington, who is a town councilor in nearby Taunton, to investigate the legality of the recall effort. Buffington said that the Special Act of 1990, which sets forth recall procedures in Bridgewater, requires the initial petition to be in the form of an affidavit. Buffington said that this procedure was not followed, and consequently the petitions were “fatally flawed” and “cannot form the proper legal basis for the initiation of any recall process against either councilor.” Because of Buffington's letter, the recall attempt was considered null and void.
Second recall attempt
Mel Shea of Citizens Forum, the recall organizing committee, announced in late October 2011 that recall proponents would be correcting the legal deficiencies of the first recall effort and starting a new recall effort from scratch. "There are 700 people out there disappointed and angry the system fell apart and who want their votes to be counted,” said Shea. Recall organizers needed to submit 100 new signatures requesting recall petitions. When those signatures were validated by the town clerk, recall organizers needed to collect the signatures of 10% of voters in each recall target's district.
On February 27, 2012, recall petitions targeting Demos and Riordan were certified, meaning a recall election should have been scheduled between 60 and 90 days. The recall election should have fallen between April 27 and May 27. Council President Scott Pitta proposed setting the recall election for May 19.
In March 2012, the town clerk sought to address allegations that some signatures had been gathered fraudulently. Attorney Jason Buffington said all procedures had been followed, and it was too late to file objections about how signatures were gathered.
Berolini attempted to slow the recall effort by asking the council to pass an emergency order seeking a judge’s ruling on the legality of the recall, but the council rejected that move during a March meeting.
A recall election date was supposed to be set at the April 24 city council meeting, with May 19 suggested as an election date. However, the town council refused to set an election date.
In late April 2012, parties on both sides of the recall election filed lawsuits. Bridgewater Town Clerk Ron Adams asked a judge to force the council to schedule a date for the recall election. Meanwhile, an attorney representing the recall targets asked a judge to rule the recall procedure invalid, and the town council continued to refuse to schedule a recall election.
On May 2, 2012, Judge Robert C. Cosgrove heard arguments in the case, both from those seeking to force the town council to schedule a recall election and from those seeking to prevent the town council from doing so. Cosgrove took the competing requests under advisement. Cosgrove said he would rule on the case at a hearing on June 19, but the ruling was delayed until August 2012. In Cosgrove's decision, he ruled that the Recall Act is valid, that it may be invoked against members of the Town Council, that a temporary registrar was properly appointed and that the recall petitions and certifications were properly made by the Town Clerk and Board of Registrars. As a consequence of the ruling, the city of Bridewater was required to move forward with scheduling a recall election. The recall election was to be scheduled for either October 27 or November 6, 2012.
The recall election was ultimately scheduled for November 6, 2012.
Board of Health member and Plymouth County Commissioner Sandra Wright ran against Demos in District 3, while former Municipal Administrator and Selectmen Chairman Paul Sullivan ran against Riordan in District 7. Demos and Riordan were recalled, while Wright and Sullivan were victorious.
Of her candidacy, Wright said, "I’m tired of all the fighting. We need to move on and get things done in town. They’ve cost us a great deal of money in legal fees and Bridgewater is a joke in other communities."
- Wicked Local Bridgewater, "With Poll: candidates square off on the reason for the Bridgewater recall", October 2, 2012
- Taunton Gazette, "Bridgewater councilors Demos and Riordan removed in recall election," November 7, 2012
- Bridgewater Independent, "Bridgewater recall affidavits ‘fatally flawed’", October 25, 2011
- Bridgewater Independent, "Citizens Forum to restart recall process in Bridgewater", October 28, 2011
- Wicked Local, "No ruling yet in Bridgewater recall case" June 20, 2012
- Enterprise News, "Judge rules Bridgewater recall must go forward," August 7, 2012
- Enterprise News, "Recall effort underway for two Bridgewater town councilors" September 9, 2011
- Wicked Local, "Berolini may be added to Bridgewater recall" December 13, 2011
- Taunton Daily Gazette, "Bridgewater recall petitions certified," February 29, 2012
- Taunton Daily Gazette, "Petitions to recall Demos and Riordan submitted to Bridgewater town clerk Monday", September 13, 2011
- Taunton Daily Gazette, "Bridgewater Town Council schedules recall investigation" October 13, 2011
- Taunton Daily Gazette, "Attorney: Bridgewater recall fraud accusations missed deadline," March 27, 2012
- Wicked Local, "Proposed order would set Bridgewater recall election for May 19" March 15, 2012
- Wicked Local, "Bridgewater Town Council votes to table recall debate," April 6, 2012
- Taunton Daily Gazette, "Bridgewater town clerk seeks judge’s ruling to schedule recall," April 25, 2012
- Wicked Local Bridgewater, "Judge makes no decision on Bridgewater recall injunction requests," May 3, 2012
- Enterprise News, "Judge pushes Bridgewater recall to June hearing," May 10, 2012
- Taunton Daily Gazette, "Debate heats up in Bridgewater over when to hold the recall," August 21, 2012
- Wicked Local Bridgewater, "Bridgewater recall election scheduled for Nov. 6," August 23, 2012
- Wicked Local Bridgewater, "Bridgewater recall shakeup: Wright pulls papers, Marchetti pulls out of race," September 11, 2012