Bangor’s three women city councilors called on a local concert promotion company to reassess whether its owner, who pleaded guilty to a domestic violence charge last year, should continue leading it.
“It is high time for Waterfront Concerts to think hard on whether it wants someone guilty of domestic violence representing its brand and presence in this community,” Councilors Clare Davitt, Sarah Nichols and Laura Supica wrote in a news release about Waterfront Concerts owner Alex Gray.
Separately, in a Bangor Daily News OpEd published Monday morning, the three vowed to improve the city’s policies on domestic violence, and acknowledged “Bangor’s own failings to address this issue.”
“We hear the call for action,” they wrote. “We can and must do more to address domestic violence in our city.”
Their statements came after Gray’s ex-girlfriend, Erica Cole, called on Bangor and Portland to stop doing business with the promoter. In September, Bangor inked a 10-year contract with Gray’s company to continue bringing concerts to Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion. A month later, in October, Gray pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence assault charge after Cole accused him of choking her and slamming her head against the floor of his Portland condominium.
Bangor officials have repeatedly said they cannot legally sever their contract with Gray without facing significant costs. But several council members have said they wish they could work with someone other than Gray.
Gray said Monday that stepping down from his company is never really something he’s considered before.
“I really don’t know. It’s something I would really have to ponder,” he said. “I’d say my first response is that I don’t know that anybody, if replaced, would put in the effort that I put in.”
Following Cole’s letter, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said he wants to cancel the city’s negotiations with the company over running a summer concert series at the Maine State Pier. The Portland City Council was scheduled to discuss it at its Monday night meeting.
“You are also setting an example for young men and women that — in the city of Portland — money trumps morality,” Cole wrote in the letter addressed to Portland City Manager Jon Jennings.
Davitt, Nichols and Supica on Monday praised Cole for speaking out, and said they want the city to draft other policies to take a harder stance against domestic violence.
Their proposals include strengthening and mandating extensive workplace training on domestic violence prevention and sexual assault, vetting future contractors’ domestic violence training policies before deciding to work with them, and roping in local experts from organizations like Partners for Peace, to help. Bangor-based Partners for Peace provides support services to abuse survivors. That organization has already been working with the Bangor to draft new educational policies and training for city employees, but there’s more to be done, said Casey Faulkingham, the leader of Partners for Peace’s community response team.
“I would love to see Bangor City Councilors listening to survivors about how it feels to see in the newspaper that the city is doing business with a perpetrator,” she said. “I wish that our city were stronger in its convictions. … By doing business with [Gray], he’s not being held accountable. We’re just lining his pockets.”
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.
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Correction: An earlier version misstated when Waterfront Concerts and the city of Bangor signed the 10-year contract.