Local Government and Politics, News

Effort to recall Swampscott Select Board member Don Hause fails

SWAMPSCOTT — The effort to recall Swampscott Select Board member Don Hause has failed. 

According to Nick Scibelli, who led the recall effort, petitioners needed to gather signatures from 15 percent of Swampscott's 11,385 registered voters — 1,708 signatures in total — by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 22, to force a recall vote and potentially remove Hause from office. Despite having petitioners posted outside Town Hall and the Swampscott Farmers Market, they only gathered 374 signatures since Scibelli received petition papers on July 2. 

Hause thanked those who participated in the virtual community forum he hosted on July 14 to address the controversy — including Scibelli, whom Hause encouraged to run for office — even if they supported his recall. 

"I look forward to continuing to serve our citizens as best I can, and am committed to learn more, and do more, so that we can make significant progress to ensure Swampscott is a welcoming, safe, just community supporting equality for all," Hause said. 

Scibelli acknowledged he was fighting an uphill battle. 

"From the outset, we knew the recall campaign would be a challenge, (because) the requirements for recall elections are notoriously difficult, let alone during a pandemic," Scibelli said. "We believe that racism is an epidemic the U.S. has faced its entire history and, thus, against extraordinary odds, we felt this action was necessary. We sought to take the pulse of the town and make a clear statement to Don that his behavior has deeply hurt and disappointed many of his constituents, and we have lost faith in his ability to adequately represent us."

The controversy surrounding Hause started in June, when Erik Heilman, then a member of the waitstaff at Mission on the Bay restaurant, posted on the private community Facebook group "Swampscott 01907" that he had been serving Hause and overheard the Select Board member call the Black Lives Matter movement "liberal bull****" and say white privilege is not real. Heilman was fired for violating the restaurant's rules on guest confidentiality, but was later offered his job back. According to Mission on the Bay owners, he declined the offer to return to work. 

Hause called Heilman's online statements both inaccurate and defamatory, but, nonetheless, an effort to recall Hause was started by Scibelli and supported by others, including Board of Health member Stephanie Goodman. Hause said the conversation in question covered many topics, including politics and current affairs, and at one point he said, "rioting and looting was hurting the Black Lives Matter movement and its core message."

Hause later held a community forum in which he addressed residents concerns over the alleged comments and said he has to "learn" more about things like "white privilege" — a phrase he previously did not understand and took offense to.

In a Facebook post about the failed recall petition, Scibelli pointed out the amount of signatures required for a recall vote, 1,708, was 388 more than the number of people who actually voted for Hause in the 2019 town election. 

Scibelli said despite the failure  of the recall bid, the petitioners did "achieve some wins," including bringing awareness "to the importance of diversity," in Swampscott.


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