EXETER—Earlier this month, a group of Exeter residents submitted their signatures to form a petition committee, aiming to canvass the public about removing four of five Exeter Town Council members. The move comes in response to discontent regarding the council’s resolution to place concealed weapons permitting in the hands of the Attorney General’s Office, removing the responsibility from the town clerk.
Four affidavits, one each for council members Calvin Ellis, Robert Johnson and William Monahan, as well as Council President Arlene Hicks, were signed by a group of Exeter residents who will form a petition committee.
“[The town councilors have] supported and requested a General Law be approved to take governing away from the Town of Exeter and the towns’ citizens and transfer it to the State of Rhode Island,” read the committee’s affidavits. “This attempt to usurp, ignore and discredit the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and to further extinguish the rights of the residents of Exeter cannot be tolerated.”
This committee will aim to obtain 496 Exeter residents’ signatures, or 10 percent as required by Exeter town charter, on a petition to remove the council members. The committee members are as follows: Joseph St. Lawrence, III of 316A Hog House Hill Road, Letitia Ann Davis of 296 William Reynolds Road, Robert Hampstead of 296 William Reynolds Road, Todd A. Reynolds of 269 Skunk Hill Road and Wilma June Reynolds, 269 Skunk Hill Road.
According to the town’s charter, if the petition committee is able to obtain 496 signatures, verified by the Exeter Board of Canvassers, the town will then hold a special election of the four council members in question. Council member Raymond Morrissey Jr. has not been named by the petition committee for a recall because he did not vote in favor of the resolution to make the Attorney General’s Office the authority for concealed weapons permitting in Exeter.
The current situation stems from the previous town council’s desire to review concealed weapons permitting practice in Exeter, which is at this time done by the town clerk and town sergeant. The current council has stated that because the town clerk has no formal law enforcement background, the Attorney General’s Office would be a more properly fitting authority to issue concealed weapons permits.
Constituents have since expressed support and opposition to changing the town’s permitting procedure, and some have stated that changing the law would be a violation of the Second Amendment.
Earlier this month, Rep. Larry Valencia (Dist. 39—Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton) presented the latest version of House Bill 6160 to the House Judiciary Committee, legislation which would push forward the council’s desired change.
“The law for the issuing of carried permits in Rhode Island was written many years ago, and it was worded along the lines of any police chief may issue a permit,” said Valencia at an Exeter Town Council meeting earlier this year. “In the event there was no police chief, it would fall to the town clerk with the advice and consent of the town sergeant.”
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