Some residents attended the City Council’s virtual meeting Feb. 2 to express disapproval of Councilor Mike Hurley’s video of himself illegally shooting off fireworks in the backyard of his Belfast home Jan. 20 in honor of President Biden’s inauguration.

Kelli Bucklin of Belfast said she intends to start a petition to recall the councilor if he does not step down from his elected position. She said he was unfit to be a leader because of his social media actions and breaking the law by setting off fireworks in the city.

“I think we’re at a time of tension and unrest in our country, of unprecedented amounts, and it’s time for our elected leaders to step up and lead by example,” she said. “And if Mr. Hurley cannot do that he should step down. I feel like that is in the best interest of the community, and if he’s unwilling to do so, then I intend on going forward with a citizen's initiative to recall him.”

Five registered voters can seek a recall petition and become the petitioners' committee, according to the city charter. The committee must collect signatures from 20% of registered voters.

Once that is accomplished, the city clerk will determine the petition's sufficiency. If it is determined sufficient, it goes before the City Council. Councilors can adopt the petition, which would remove the councilor in question.

If the City Council decides not to adopt the petition, an election would be held within 20 to 130 business days for the public to vote on the matter.

Chris Knight of Belfast said he thinks elected officials should keep their beliefs to themselves. He thinks Hurley’s actions on social media are part of what is dividing the community.

“There comes a day when every good sport athlete needs to hang their cleats up,” he said. “And unfortunately, Mike, I think it’s your time, and I think what you've caused in this discontent and this hate in the city among the few posts is wrong.”

Barry Crawford of Monroe said Hurley almost acts like a dictator on the You Know You Love Belfast If….. Facebook page, which the councilor runs, and it is not fair. Other people love the city just as much as he does, and it is slightly different for everyone. He thinks Hurley should not be on the social media site as an elected official.

“I think that probably the healthiest thing for this community was to have him stop, get off that Facebook (page), because he’s an elected official and he’s fracturing the community,” he said.

Critics say they are frustrated over Hurley’s comments to political opponents on Facebook that some people have said are abusive. When he posted a video of himself holding lit fireworks while quoting dialogue inspired by the movie "Die Hard," it was shared on Facebook. Some people accused him of acting as if he were above the law.

City councilors did not discuss the issues raised about Hurley’s social media actions or the video in question during their talk about civility in the city, or during the discussion of a core values statement.

Mayor Eric Sanders asked the city manager to write the statement, which outlines values to emulate under three main points: maintain high standards of integrity, be courteous, respectful and promote civility, and be accountable.

The core values statement comes after a November discussion about a social media policy for elected officials and city employees when it was decided not to adopt a social media policy because councilors felt it was too limiting on their freedom of speech.

Councilors were more comfortable with the core values statement because it was not a document about enforcing behavior.

City Councilor Brenda Bonneville said she thinks all the people on the council already follow what is outlined in the statement, but thinks it is a good document to refer back to. It does not make her feel that she is being controlled.

“I don’t feel like I’m trying to be told what to do,” she said. “I think I know what to do, I’m a grown woman and I feel like I carry myself in a way that I am not ashamed of, and I feel like all of you sitting here do the same.”

Hurley told a story about a time when he lost an important contract with a company and he read its core values statement posted on its wall and thought it was “a total crock.” He said the interview ended with him telling the person, “When you’re getting screwed, a back massage doesn’t really help that much.”

He went on to say that he did not have an issue with the proposed statement and it should be applied to all city government offices and employees.

Councilor Neal Harkness was concerned about the timing of the statement’s passage. He said it might appear to the public as though the council was making the statement out of duress or that it was being pressured into it.

“As far as the statement itself, I don't have an objection to it,” he said. “I just think we ought to consider that the way what we do is seen by the public. And I do think there are some people who are going to see this in a light in which it’s not intended.”

Councilors tabled the statement with the intention that it will be passed at a future meeting.