LEBANON, Maine (AP) — Residents of this southern Maine town are going to vote whether to recall several town leaders in a flap that grew out of the select board chairman's decision to take a farmer's pot plants.
Farmer Eric Kelley accused Select Board Chairman Charles Russell Jr. and board member Ernest “Butch” Lizotte Jr. of swiping $100,000 worth of plants, knowing that the farmer was in jail. In addition, local animal control officers took his livestock.
District Attorney Kathryn Slattery confirmed there was an investigation that focused on possible theft. But there was not enough evidence to prove the charges “beyond a reasonable doubt,” she told The Associated Press.
Anger over the marijuana episode apparently served as a tipping point for a recall effort targeting Russell, Lizotte and another person who went to the farm that night. The recall also targets a third selectman who's accused of missing half of this year's meetings.
Russell, who grows medicinal marijuana for household use, consulted for a local pot business and helped draft town marijuana ordinances, acknowledged to the Boston Globe that he pilfered Kelley's marijuana plants. But he said he did it because he didn't want the plants getting “into the hands of the wrong people” while Kelley was in jail. He called it a “public safety" matter.
Michael Walsworth, a leader of the recall effort and member of the town’s Budget Committee, said that the marijuana incident was bad but he’s worried about other things that are below the radar.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” he told the newspaper.
The town of Lebanon disbanded its police force in 1991. The case was investigated by the state police. Trooper Patrick Hall wrote that Russell acknowledged he had no legal authority to take the the plants, and he noted that his livestock seemed to be just fine, the newspaper reported.