SANGERVILLE, Maine — Faced with an overdraft in legal fees and some unanswered questions, selectmen voted Tuesday to seek a more detailed report of the incurred expenses.
At the recommendation of Selectman Brent Randall, the board agreed to send a letter to Eaton Peabody of Bangor, the firm that represents the town, and request an itemized list of activity from Jan. 1, 2011, to present. That list is to include all telephone calls, emails and written requests from Sangerville and responses by the legal firm, the subject matter of each, and the corresponding charges.
Randall said a lot of the attorney bills have no correspondence in the office files.
“I’m not saying that the bills are illegal or anything else, but there should be correspondence each time we contact a lawyer,” Randall said. The town raised $10,000 for legal fees and is now $248 in the red, he said Tuesday.
Resident Pam Smith suggested that a town official should not be able to call a lawyer on their own volition; rather, at least one selectmen should be asked first.
“I just think it‘s a good idea not to give carte blanche to any [one] person,” Smith said.
Selectman Tom Carone questioned spending more funds since the town’s legal account already is over budget, but agreed in the end to support the move.
“It was a surprise to find the amount of the bills that had accrued in a fairly short period of time,” Carone said.
An audit of the town’s financial records, which was conducted because of the resignation earlier this month of Town Manager Michelle Dumoulin, showed that “everything came up proper,” Carone said. An audit is a typical practice when a town official who has been involved with financial matters leaves a post, according to Carone.
In a related matter, the selectmen agreed to advertise the town manager’s position. Selectmen also are seeking 11 residents who wish to serve on a search committee for the position.
Resident Charles Murphy suggested the town must have a mechanism in place to handle grievances of town employees and officials, although it was not used when problems arose with the former town manager. Rather, he said, the venue of half truths, innuendos and vilification was used.
“When anybody disagrees with the way this town is being run or somebody is doing something, even though they are doing it with the best of intention and the good of the town at heart, they can use this mechanism,” he said. “Rather than having a governance of representation we now have a governance of vigilante and that to me is very upsetting.”