Mattawamkeag selectman claims illegal meeting

Posted May 28, 2013, at 4:01 p.m.

MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine — Two selectmen might have violated state law Friday when they met with a state trooper who interviewed them as part of an investigation into an alleged misappropriation of funds, according to the chairman of the board of selectmen.

State police Trooper Thomas Fiske met with town Administrative Assistant Steve Worster and Selectmen Edward Richard and Joseph Murray in Worster’s office at 10 a.m. Friday, Worster said. Fiske said the meeting was part of his ongoing investigation.

Bion Tolman, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he believes the meeting was illegal. Under Maine Freedom of Access Act, timely public notice and an agenda must be issued in advance of any gathering of a quorum or majority of a governing body.

“If two selectmen get together, it is considered a selectman’s meeting,” Tolman said Friday of the three-member board. “There has to be a posted notice, and I wasn’t invited.”

Tolman said he became alarmed when a resident contacted him on Friday and told him of the meeting. No public notice of the meeting was given, said Worster, who declined to comment on whether the session violated FOAA law.

Worster said that Fiske sought to meet the two selectmen and that Tolman wasn’t invited because Tolman had already talked with Fiske.

Murray referred comment on the meeting to the town office. Richard has an unlisted telephone number and could not be reached for comment.

Tolman said he will contact the town’s attorney, Robert Hark of Portland, to consult on the matter. Hark on Tuesday said that he hasn’t yet been asked by any town official to render an opinion on whether Friday’s meeting was illegal.

“I really don’t at this point have the facts upon which to render even an informal opinion,” Hark said.

Selectmen voted 3-0 on May 6 to seek the resignations of Fire Chief Robert Powers after he and his wife, Deputy Chief Lynne Powers, were suspended without pay for what Tolman alleged was a misuse of funds. The Powerses have not responded to the selectmen’s request for their resignations, Worster said.

Selectmen voted 3-0 last Monday to place Kira Lane, whom Tolman described as the Powerses’ daughter, on administrative leave without pay because she also used the card, he said. She is a town firefighter and ambulance driver, and town officials found credit card slips that appeared to bear her signature, he said.

Lane has an unlisted telephone number and could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Credit card receipts show that the Powerses bought at least $9,000 in gasoline for personal vehicles with a town credit card intended for Fire Department use, Tolman has said. Robert and Lynne Powers have an unlisted telephone number and have not responded to email requests for comment.

More recently, Tolman said, selectman Richard told him that the Powerses’ credit card use conforms to a past town practice in which fire chiefs were allowed to charge personal gasoline purchases if they were traveling in their own vehicles on town business.

Tolman said he had been a selectman for several years and that he and several prior selectmen didn’t know of any past practice involving firefighters using town credit cards to fuel their personal vehicles.

When he asked interim Fire Chief Michael Coombs about past department practices, Coombs told him that personal use of the town credit card by firefighters occurred very rarely, Tolman said.

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