In a move that was a clear statement to change procedures for replacing Town Commissioners who leave office before the end of their term, Oxford residents voted 230 to 70 to pass an amendment that will require vacancies on the Town Commissioners mid-term be filled through special elections.
The amendment was created in March of this year as a reaction to what many citizens of the small town saw as an overreach and lack of transparency from the Town Commissioners in several personnel and town management and budget issues.
Immediately after the sudden controversial retirement of long time Police Chief Pat Maxwell, residents of Oxford demanded more accountability from people running the town. Katrina Greer and a concerned group of citizens started the petition prior to change long standing practices. The petition met the signature threshold and was presented to the Commissioners.
After it was given to the Commissioners, the Oxford Town Office put out a statement claiming that the amendment was not a good idea. This was followed up by an impassioned argument by Commissioner Tom Costigan at a town meeting who claimed that no change to the town charter was necessary since current procedures had "worked well" for so many years. Supporters pointed out that the change in how Commissioners were conducting business now indicated change was needed. The amendment was slated for a vote on Tuesday, July 18.
In the meantime, Greer was elected to take Commissioner Jim Jaramillo's spot, defeating Susan Delean Botkin by a sizable margin. Before Greer could be sworn into office, Commissioner Brian Wells resigned his position and the Commissioners installed election loser Botkin under the current system, leading to speculation by many that the amendment was "slow walked" by town officials so they could place their preferred candidate on the Commissioners, once again ignoring the will of the people.
Yesterday, an election was held and the amendment passed, 230 to 70, an overwhelming majority.
Many see this as a statement to those running Oxford that business as usual will no longer be acceptable. One resident was quoted as saying, "Stay tuned." Currently in process are multiple Public Information Act petitions regarding the actions of the Town Office and Commissioners in regards to hiring and grant management.