Ethics case in Newport leads to reprimand letter

Posted Nov. 05, 2009, at 12:04 a.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — Two complaints of ethical violations against Selectman Christopher Dow concluded Wednesday night with a letter of reprimand in one case and a dismissal in the other. Dow said after the meeting there was no truth to either accusation.

In one case, Dow was accused of helping orchestrate a disturbance during municipal elections last March during which a woman acted intoxicated and confused at the polls and later claimed election workers had harassed her. At a Sept. 16 hearing on the issue, Selectmen Richard Parlee, Tom Breitweg and Roger Carr concluded in a 3-0 vote that Dow had played a role in the fracas by having a close friend and campaign manager escort the woman to the polls.

“There is sufficient evidence that Selectman Dow participated in the planning of this disturbance by requesting that his campaign manager escort [the woman] to the polls,” reads the letter of reprimand signed Wednesday by Parlee, Breitweg and Carr. Copies of the letter will be placed in Dow’s personnel file and attached to the board’s meeting minutes.

In a separate case, Dow was accused of violating the town’s ethics code at a board meeting in July when he insinuated that selectmen had been misled by a bid review committee. The board was considering hiring an engineer to design a proposed sand and salt shed at the time.

Selectmen postponed a hearing on this allegation in September so a recording of the July meeting could be heard at a later meeting. Instead of listening to that recording Wednesday, Breitweg moved to dismiss the complaint, which was supported by Carr and Parlee. Dow and Douglas Franklin, who joined the board Wednesday night after being elected Tuesday, abstained.

“Another selectman and I listened to the recording and we found nothing out of order,” Breitweg said.

Carr, a member of the bid committee, provided the board with a memo outlining his objection to Dow’s actions.

“Mr. Dow could have obtained the information that he was seeking without implying that ‘something may have been improper, if he could prove it,’ with the bid selection process,” reads Carr’s memo. “The selectpersons have a moral obligation to address these issues by whatever legal process that is available to us.”

Dow said after the meeting that the outcome of the second complaint was as he expected. “It went the way I thought it should have gone,” he said.

In other business, the board:

• Voted to move forward with a contract with Moody’s Antique Building Wrecking Co. of Clinton to tear down a decrepit building at 18 Water St. Under the contract, the company has until March 1, 2010, to complete the work, for which owner Walter Moody will keep lumber from the building and be paid $8,500 — maybe. The contract, which has not yet been signed but which the board gave Town Manager James Ricker permission to execute, states that Moody’s payment is contingent on approval by voters at the March 2010 town meeting.

Walter Moody, who was present at Wednesday’s meeting, indicated to selectmen he intends to sign the contract.

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