The Maine Education Association, with support from the National Education Association (NEA) filed a lawsuit in Maine Superior Court seeking immediate injunctive relief against the town of Gorham for refusing to allow Janet Kuech, an Ed Tech in the Gorham School Department, from serving on the Gorham Town Council. Kuech is a member of the Maine Education Association, resident of Gorham and works at Narraganset Elementary School.
On Election Day, Kuech won a seat on the Gorham Town Council. Since that time, members of the Gorham Town Council have twice refused to seat her, citing the Town Charter. The Town Charter states that no council members shall hold an office or profit under the Town Charter or Ordinances. However, Gorham’s town attorney provided legal advice to the Council stating Kuech was not precluded by the Town Charter from being seated on the Council. Still, the Council refused to honor the will of the voters and its own attorney’s advice. Read the Gorham town attorney’s advice here. Kuech won her seat in a six-way race for three seats, ousting incumbent Paul Smith. Kuech was the only non-incumbent to win.
“I ran to be on the town council in my hometown because I love Gorham, I love our schools, and want to represent the people in this great town. I was ecstatic when I won and am excited to serve-but now as the current town council tries to stifle the voice of the voters and disqualify me-I’m beyond disheartened. Ignoring the outcome of a valid election is certainly not how we teach civics,” said Janet Kuech, elected town councilor and Gorham Ed Tech.
The lawsuit contends the refusal to seat Janet Kuech as a town councilor is an infringement of the rights and privileges granted in the Maine Constitution to Kuech and those who voted for her on November 5, 2019.
“Instead of respecting the town voters and the rule of law, these town councilors have doubled down in their lawlessness by moving forward and posting a notice for a new election scheduled in March of 2020 for the seat that Janet Kuech won and for which they refuse to seat her,” said attorney Jonathan Goodman, who has been hired by MEA to represent Kuech.
The MEA and NEA are helping Kuech, a member of both Associations, as she continues to fight for what she deserves.
“As educators we teach our students to use their voices and speak up for what they believe in and in this case it’s the educators who are using our voices to speak up in favor of democracy. We cannot sit idly by and watch someone try and steal an election away from an educator who has served her students for decades and has now won the right to serve her community. MEA will go to great lengths to protect our democratic values in this state and hopes the courts act quickly and allow Janet to serve in the role she clearly deserves,” said MEA President Grace Leavitt.
A date for a hearing on the matter has not yet been set.