Despite former treasurer’s claim of ‘questionable’ practices, 2 Columbia Falls selectmen vote to close book on old bank account

Posted April 15, 2014, at 10:41 a.m.

COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine — Two members of the Board of Selectmen were satisfied with information they received from Machias Savings Bank about a mysterious bank account.

Board Chairman Alan Grant and Todd Emerson voted 2-0 to approve a motion reporting on the outcome of a closed-door session the board held last week. Selectman Jay Look abstained.

The measure referred to a letter the board received from the bank indicating that an account that was mentioned by John Tibbetts was “never in existence” although bank officials did confirm the existence of an old passbook savings account.

Grant confirmed later the old passbook savings account was for the town’s recreation committee, but he indicated the account was no longer active.

At the outset of the meeting, Grant acknowledged that the selectmen discussed the information they received from the bank with town Treasurer Lenora Weaver during the board’s executive session meeting April 10.

“The board was satisfied,” he said, with the information it received from the bank and learned nothing out of the ordinary or of concern.

Tibbetts told the selectmen at their March 10 meeting that he came across bank records for the recreation committee when he briefly served as town treasurer in 2010. He told them about a bank statement he received from Machias Savings Bank indicating the recreation committee had an account containing about $7,000-$10,000, he said.

Asked after the board meeting Monday night if he might have been mistaken, Tibbetts was undeterred. “No, I saw what I saw,” he said.

“The pertinent issue,” Tibbetts said, “is what were the transactions that took place.”

The fact that the selectmen discussed the issue in executive session with Weaver is an indication of “questionable” practices, suggested Tibbetts.

When asked what legal reason the board cited for holding an closed-door meeting to discuss the information it received from the bank, Grant said it was the provision under the state’s Freedom of Access Act that allows governing bodies to meet in private to discuss personnel issues.

Weaver, reached by phone earlier in the day, declined to comment on what officials had learned from the bank and referred a reporter’s question to the board’s meeting later that evening.

When pressed further, she said, “I can’t discuss what was discussed in executive session. That’s the point of executive session.”

Asked if the passbook savings account was still active, how much money it contained, and whether there were any bank accounts for the recreation committee, she reiterated the same answer, finally saying, “I think I have no comment.”

A subdued hubbub over the financial dealings of the recreation committee has been brewing in recent months, prompted by Freedom of Access Act requests by Look’s wife, Pamela, who asked for bank statements of the committee and other information. Town Clerk Nancy Bailey eventually found the passbook savings account for the recreation committee.

After the revelation by Tibbetts at the March 10 meeting, the board voted 2-1 to contact the bank to obtain records of the account to which Tibbetts referred; Look and former Selectman Bernard Ward voted in favor of the motion, and Grant voted against it.

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