Friction causes selectman to leave during Newburgh meeting

Posted Nov. 20, 2012, at 3:01 p.m.

NEWBURGH, Maine — A member of the Newburgh Board of Selectmen walked out of Monday night’s meeting after the discussion got heated.

Claude Bolduc got up from his chair and walked out just 43 minutes into the meeting after fellow Selectman Stanley “Skip” Smith challenged him on a recommendation Bolduc made that didn’t follow Maine law.

The friction started early as Serena Bemis-Goodall, the town’s administrative assistant and manager, presented a list of seven people interested in being on the budget committee. Bolduc objected because he and his wife, Lou Chamberlain, were omitted from the list. The committee calls for five people with two alternates.

Selectman Steve Burgess and Smith said it would be a conflict for a selectman to be on the budget committee because the Board of Selectmen has the final approval of the budget. Smith also said that because Chamberlain is on the finance committee, it would be a good idea to get new people onto other committees.

Bolduc mentioned how other towns encourage having selectmen on committees.

“I think this is a very backhanded way of getting us out of the way,” Bolduc said to Smith. “I’m recalling your statement a few weeks ago when you said … a number of people didn’t want to work with [me and my wife] on the board. Now it seems like, ‘well, if we don’t have Lou and Claude, now these other people can work on the board.’ If that’s how you’re going to put the town back together, that’s a hell of a way to go.”

After the argument, Brian Carlisle, who was in the audience, stood and asked for his name to be removed from the list of budget committee applicants.

“I offered to join this committee thinking that this town had moved past what we went through the past couple of years,” said Carlisle. “Seeing this tonight — I withdraw my name. I’m not interested.”

Carlisle was referring to Cindy Dunton, the former Newburgh deputy clerk and treasurer, who pleaded guilty in March 2011 to stealing nearly $200,000 from the town over the course of several years.

“We have six [applicants] now because of the negativity that they feel in this room and there’s no need of that negativity,” said Bemis-Goodall. “We wanted to leave that at the door. I tried to get in touch with people I knew that were originally interested in being on the committee. Those are the exact same ones Skip had talked about before.”

“We had given you these names and you omitted these [two] names on there,” interrupted Bolduc. “You didn’t even present [me and my wife] as suggestions for the budget committee and I’m not supposed to react to that?”

Carlisle said he previously served on the budget committee two years ago, but was met with negativity from Bolduc.

“What I see here now is just total controversy,” said Carlisle. “No matter what the budget committee comes up with, it’s going to be a battle. I go to the town meeting [two years ago] and Claude comes up to me and says the budget is all screwed up. Boy, that’s a good time to find out about it. If it’s screwed up, come to the meeting and talk about it. That’s what’s going to happen this time and I want no part of it.”

Buddy Belcher, who was seated next to Carlisle, stood and also requested that his name be taken off the list of candidates for the budget committee. Later, at the insistence of Bemis-Goodall, he agreed to have his name put back on the list.

The selectmen voted to accept the six applicants for the budget committee in a 4-1 vote.

It was not the end of the friction as the next item on the agenda revolved around a letter the town received from the Maine Municipal Association. Burgess said after the meeting that the town had requested clarification from MMA about selectmen looking at town warrants without supervision from the town’s treasurer.

According to Bemis-Goodall, who is also Newburgh’s treasurer, MMA said Maine law requires that the town treasurer have sole access to the town warrant. Any selectman may review the town warrant under the supervision of the treasurer during normal business hours.

Bolduc suggested leaving a key in an envelope so any selectman could review the warrants when they wanted.

“You’re advocating breaking the law,” Smith said to Bolduc.

“Skip, if you raise your voice one more time at me, I’m leaving,” said Bolduc.

“That’d be nice,” replied Smith.

Bolduc then got up and left the meeting.

About an hour later, Burgess recommended that selectmen be respectful when interacting with office staff due to an incident that happened last week.

Bemis-Goodall said a selectman came into her office on Friday and yelled and cursed at her.

Bemis-Goodall declined to say who the selectman was, but Burgess said Tuesday morning that the selectman was Bolduc.

“I’ve always said I have an open-door policy,” said Bemis-Goodall during Monday night’s meeting. “Anybody in this community can come into that office any time they want to come and I will stop what I’m doing and my focus will be on them.

“However, I don’t expect a selectman to come into that office, raising their voice and swearing to the point that, through a closed door, the customers out here heard that. I see absolutely no reason for that whatsoever,” she said, adding that she has told others in the office to call the police if anyone does that again.

Bolduc denied Tuesday that he shouted and cursed at Bemis-Goodall in her office.

“I remember raising some points like I didn’t like the [office hours] survey,” said Bolduc by telephone. “I have a hard time believing that that conversation triggered that kind of response.”

Bolduc said he tends to raise his voice, but the incident referred to by Burgess “seems like shouting, and I didn’t shout.”

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