PORTLAND, Maine — The City Council will reconsider doing business with a Maine concert promotion company after a woman who was assaulted by its founder published a letter online accusing local officials of tacitly endorsing domestic violence.
In a blog post Monday, Erica Cole chastised Portland and Bangor leaders saying that the decision to do business with Alex Gray’s company, Waterfront Concerts, sends the message that domestic violence is acceptable.
Gray pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence assault in October, but continued to deny having beaten Cole, his ex-girlfriend. He received a deferred disposition, which means the conviction will be dismissed if he abides by conditions set by a judge, and Waterfront Concerts has continued to ink deals and books shows for both cities.
“You are also setting an example for young men and women that — in the city of Portland — money trumps morality,” Cole wrote on her website, in an open letter addressed to Portland City Manager Jon Jennings. “I’m asking you to reconsider your decision to continue doing business with Alex Gray and Waterfront Concerts.”
Cole, a former Miss Maine USA, did not respond to requests for comment by the Bangor Daily News. Jennings said that she had reached out to him late Sunday night and that they would be meeting to discuss her concerns Tuesday.
In February, the City Council unanimously approved Waterfront Concerts to run a summer concert series at the Maine State Pier. But the city has yet to sign a contract with the company and the City Council is now set to reconsider the deal at its April 9 meeting, Jennings said. The company has also booked shows at the city’s Merrill Auditorium.
The manager said he understands why Cole is angry with the city and that domestic violence is “so completely out of bounds.” Gray’s October guilty plea received extensive media coverage and Jennings said that he could not speak for the councilors as to why they are taking the issue back up now.
“Obviously everyone was quite aware of all the allegations and the conviction of Mr. Gray in the February meeting,” said Jennings, adding that officials had been trying to “entertain a distinction between the business entity and the person” in dealing with Gray and Waterfront Concerts.
Before Gray pleaded guilty, Bangor signed a 10-year contract with Waterfront Concerts to put on shows at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion. Bangor City Manager Cathy Conlow said Monday that she had nothing to add to earlier statements on the matter and that the city’s contract does not allow it to be terminated because of Gray’s misdemeanor conviction.
Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said Monday that reading Cole’s “heartbreaking” account made him regret not having done more to learn about what she went through before voting on the summer concert series.
“We clearly failed her and other women in similar circumstances,” Strimling wrote on Facebook. The mayor added that that he too is seeking to meet with Cole and had placed the deal with Waterfront Concerts on the council agenda.
Alex Gray told the Bangor Daily News that “to remain respectful of the law and this process” he would not be commenting, but provided a written statement from long-time legal advisors John and Ashleigh Merchant, the latter of whom has appeared as a legal expert on cable television stations HLN and Fox News.
The Georgia-based lawyers, who did not represent Gray in his trial, attested to the concert promoter’s character and said he is a “model for [our young daughters] for how men should treat women.”
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If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.