June 22, 2018
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Rockport board resolves contracting rift

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

ROCKPORT, Maine — Two Select Board members retained their seats after a public hearing Tuesday night to determine if the board members had acted against town laws after their businesses contracted with the town for work.

Select Board Chairman Bob Duke, who owns Floor Magic, and board member Tom Farley, who is the vice president of Farley and Son Landscaping Inc., had done more than $120,000 of contracted work with the town in their time as Select Board members.

The town charter indicates that board members may not have business relationships with the town for which members receive compensation. If the two men were found in violation of this part of the charter, they would not be eligible to hold seats on the board.

Rockport residents and the two board members presented cases to the reduced three-person board, which ultimately voted 3-0 to keep Duke and 2-1 to keep Farley.

Select Board member Dale Landrith made both motions to keep the men on the board. After the meeting, he said he thought Duke didn’t have a business relationship with the town.

“It was a one-time issue,” Landrith said.

As for Farley, “He doesn’t receive compensation for the work Farley and Son does for the town,” Landrith said.

Board member William Chapman voted against Farley.

“I think he is in current violation of the charter,” Chapman said after Tuesday’s meeting. “He is the vice president of the corporation that does [business with the town]. Corporations are individuals under United States law.”

Farley told the board that he simply is a salaried employee of Farley and Son.

“I do not receive compensation directly in my pocket to me from the town,” Farley said at the meeting. “I bid for Farley and Son and my father finalizes the bids.”

Farley and Son has cemetery lawn-mowing contracts with Rockport and a road repair contract. Town documents indicate Farley and Son received $116,365 in compensation for goods and services including formal bid and no-bid contracts for town landscaping work during Farley’s time on the Select Board.

Some residents raised concerns about Tom Farley’s signature being on the bids and contracts with the town.

“You people on the board know what I’m all about, and that is good news because I represent the taxpayer,” Farley said.

In Duke’s compliance hearing, several Rockport residents spoke to the board, including Gordon Best, who said that Duke — who helped write the town’s charter — should have known there was the possibility of a conflict when he first joined the Select Board.

“That’s why this is particularly distressing to me,” Best said. “Bob knew that there was a possibility of a violation. That whole discussion should have happened there, not here, and it didn’t. The ball was dropped then.”

Duke’s Floor Magic business in Rockport and Damariscotta has received $7,171 from the town for goods and services during his time on the board, according to town documents.

Other residents expressed concern about Duke, including Robert Nichols, who handed the board public documents showing Duke’s contracts between his business and the town.

“Those documents make it crystal clear that Bob Duke had business relationships with the town and he received compensation,” Nichols said.

In his statement to the board, Duke said he did not have regular business interactions with the town, which he said rebuts the allegations that he had a “business relationship,” which the charter forbids. The business he had with the town, which included a contract to install wood flooring in the Rockport Opera House, was not ongoing.

“We did one job. To be honest with you, after I got through, I think I made $1,000 off this job. So what did I do? I bought $1,000 of carpet and put it in the opera house,” Duke said at the meeting. “That’s what is insulting.”

After the board voted unanimously that Duke was not in violation of town law, Duke was still steaming.

“I’m bitter,” Duke said after the hearing. “If that is the way to reward public service, why do public service?”

Both Duke and Farley said they plan to remain on the board.

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