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Saugus Board of Registrars chairwoman resigns over recall election

For the second time in three months, a member of the Saugus Board of Registrars has resigned after raising questions about the March 17 special election to recall four selectmen.

Joanne D. Rappa, the board’s chairwoman, resigned on Feb. 20, stating her “disappointment with the process of the upcoming special election,” according to her resignation letter.

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The recall of four of five selectmen centers on the board’s vote to fire Scott C. Crabtree, former town manager, in October.

Gary Butt, who served for nearly 20 years on the board, resigned on Nov. 14. Butt said he didn’t believethe recall was following state law, and it was not the process outlined in the town charter.

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Rappa has objected to public distribution of the recall ballot before it was officially received by the clerk’s office from the printer.

“Unfortunately, in my opinion, the integrity of the Board of Registrars and the town clerk’s office has now been compromised,” Rappa wrote in her resignation.

The copy of the ballot was posted on the Facebook campaign page of Jeffrey Cicolini, one of four selectmen candidates being backed by Save Saugus PAC, a political action group leading the recall effort. The ballot was marked with red arrows, pointing to Cicolini and three other Save Saugus candidates running in the special election.

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Rappa — who retired as the town clerk last July after serving in that post since 2005 — had planned to leave the Board of Registrars on March 31, when her term was due to expire. She declined to comment on her decision to resign early.

Town Clerk Ellen J. Schena defended her office.

“It’s a public document,” Schena said. “I don’t know how it’s compromised the Board of Registrars. They don’t approve the ballot. They see it the same time everyone else does, when they vote.”

In an interview, Cicolini said a supporter e-mailed him a copy of the ballot.

“I received an e-mail, from a private citizen that includes an image, a depiction of what the ballot should look like,” he said, declining further comment

Brian McNiff, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said there appeared to be no violation of the state’s election laws.

But the release of the ballot angered the leader of Save Our BOS PAC, another political action group working to keep the selectmen in office.

‘Unfortunately, in my opinion, the integrity of the Board of Registrars and the town clerk’s office has now been compromised.’

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“Maybe there was no law broken,” said Dennis Gould, president of the group. “But, from a moral and ethical point, it appears that the clerk is assisting the other side. That’s bothersome.”

Four of the town’s five selectmen are facing recall: chairwoman Ellen Faiella, vice chairwoman Maureen Dever, and members Paul Allan and Steven Castinetti.

All four are running in the March 17 special election to retain their seats. The ballot will contain their names, but also a question asking if they should be recalled.

Save Saugus PAC, a political action group backed by town residents, initiated the recall after selectmen voted to fire Crabtree.

Along with Cicolini, that PAC is supporting candidates Scott Brazis, Jennifer D’Eon, and Mark Mitchell. A fifth candidate, Arthur Grabowski, is not backed by Save Saugus.

Schena said she approved the ballot on Feb. 18, and e-mailed it to the printer. A staff member later e-mailed a copy of the ballot to a local resident who had asked if the ballots were available.

“I had already approved it,” Schena said. “I don’t think there was any malicious intent by this office.”

Kathy McCabe can be reached at katherine.mccabe
@globe.com
. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.
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