Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lisbon Council Reverting to Their Old Ways


At last Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, it started off with an Executive Session covering three items.  The item that I am concerned with is the very first one:  2015-76 Order – 1 MRSA Statue 405 (6) (A) Personnel Matters – Finance Committee Resignations & Appointments.  This is the first time that the qualifications of volunteers have been discussed in Executive Session.

The Town Council had to consider the resignations of Mr. Michael Bowie and Mr. Charles Smith.  Also, they needed to consider the qualifications of volunteers Mr. Dean Wiley’s application submitted January 26, 2015 and Mr. Roger Cote’s application submitted February 26, 2015.  I understand the Town Manager had received two additional candidates which apparently were not considered. 

Maine Statute 405 (6) (A) is very clear.  There are certain matters which qualify for the Executive Session status instead on being discussed in Public.  Paragraph 6 and 6 reads:  Permitted deliberation.  Deliberations on ONLY the following matters may be conducted during an executive session:  Paragraph 6(A) reads:
Discussion or consideration of the employment, appointment, assignment, duties, promotion, demotion, compensation, evaluation, disciplining, resignation or dismissal of an individual or group of public officials, appointees or employees of the body or agency or the investigation or hearing of charges or complaints against a person or persons subject to the following conditions:  (1) An executive session may be held ONLY if public discussion could be reasonably expected to cause damage to the individual’s reputation or the individual’s right to privacy would be violated; (2) Any person charged or investigated must be permitted to be present at an executive session if that person so desires; (3) Any person charged or investigated may request in writing that the investigation or hearing of charges or complaints against that person be conducted in open session.  A request, if made to the agency, must be honored; and (4) Any person bringing charges, complaints or allegations of misconduct against the individual under discussion must be permitted to be present. This paragraph does not apply to discussion of a budget or budget proposal;

Since there would be no reason to discuss any resignations, the Executive Session had to have pertained to either Mr. Wiley or Mr. Cote or both.  The only discussion should have been about their qualifications pertaining to the Finance Committee.  Neither of these two individuals have been charged or investigated and were not offered to attend the Executive Session subparagraphs 2,3,4, are eliminated.  This only leaves subparagraph 1 must have applied.  Both of these individuals have been very vocal about their political views which would not damage their reputation or their right to privacy; this had to have been a violation of Maine Statute 405 (6) (A).  The problem with Executive Sessions is there is no way to verify what was discussed because everything said in Executive Session is sworn to secrecy by the Councilors.  The Town Manager and the Town Attorney should have stopped this action immediately.  By the process of elimination, there can be no other explanation; this action reflects the integrity and character of the members of our Town Council.

There has to be some kind of check and balance to ensure these violations of Executive Session are eliminated.  It is critical this town have transparency.

Larry Fillmore

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