May 20, 2018
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Judge rules that South Thomaston can charge resident for legal work

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

SOUTH THOMASTON, Maine — A judge has ordered a South Thomaston woman to pay the legal cost incurred by the town for her request to lay a water line under the road.

Judge Susan Sparaco ruled May 20 that Elsie Brown must pay the town $490 for the research done by its lawyer for the street opening requested by Brown. She was also ordered to pay $77 to the town for the cost of bringing the small claims complaint to Rockland District Court.

Brown is the mother of former Fire Chief Wayne Brown, who is embroiled in his own controversy with the town over what happened to nearly $15,000 withdrawn from the bank accounts of the South Thomaston Firemen’s Association.

Spear said Thursday that the select board sent a registered letter to Wayne Brown on May 13 asking him to return the money. But the letter has not been picked up or signed for yet.

Wayne Brown represented his mother in both the request for the water line work and the refusal to pay the town’s legal costs for the road opening.

Elsie and Wayne Brown asked the select board on Aug. 21, 2013, to hold an emergency meeting to allow her to get a road opening permit on Westbrook Street because a well had run dry and she wanted to connect to another well on the opposite side of the road on land she also owned. The board met the next day and approved the request.

She signed a permit application in which she agreed to pay “all costs incurred by such permit, including all associated expenses to the town of South Thomaston.”

The town billed her on Oct. 17 for $1,500. On Oct. 30, the town received a letter from Wayne Brown with a check for $1,010 and a note saying that he did not feel that a resident should have to pay the town’s cost for doing research for a permit required by the town.

Letters were sent to Elsie Brown in November, December and February, asking for the remaining $490. In the final letter on Feb. 14, administrative assistant John Spear said the unpleasantness of a formal collection action could be avoided by paying the $490.

“As you are aware, the town took extraordinary steps to promptly respond to your emergency request last summer. For you to now ignore that effort, by failing to fully reimburse the taxpayers of the town for the costs they incurred to assist you, is quite disappointing,” Spear states in the letter.

The town filed the small claims complaint the following month when the payment was not made.

Elsie Brown’s attorney filed a motion this week asking Judge Sparaco to offer detailed reasons for her decision.

An email message was sent to Wayne Brown Thursday morning for comment but there was no immediate response.

Wayne Brown was a member of the firemen’s association until it disbanded and was the town’s fire chief until he resigned in 2006.

Shortly after resigning, Brown filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming he was harassed to the point that he was forced to resign. The town and Brown settled in May 2010, with the town paying him $95,000, of which $80,000 went to his legal costs.


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