LINCOLN, Maine — Byron Sanderson believes Town Councilor Dede Trask ran former Town Manager William Lawrence out of his job as a result of her persistent criticism of Lawrence’s work.
Trask said she only questioned Lawrence, who resigned from his position July 11 to take a job in Florida, about aspects of town government in her effort to be a good councilor.
The differing viewpoints were the thrust behind Sanderson’s criticism during Monday night’s council meeting and Trask’s responses Tuesday. Sanderson, a chairperson on the town’s recycling committee and an employee at Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC, said councilors were reactive rather than proactive and second-guessed Lawrence’s initiatives they should have supported.
“You ran a perfectly good, common-sense man out of town,” Sanderson told councilors during Monday night’s council meeting. “It is just too bad. If you have a plan, I would like to know what that is.”
Sanderson did not name names during his public comments but said afterward Trask was the councilor who effectively pushed out Lawrence. Trask, who did not respond to the criticism Monday, said Tuesday Sanderson misinterpreted her actions and motives.
“I have not been critical of Bill Lawrence,” Trask said. “I asked for several items, brought things to him that just required an answer, and I did not want Bill Lawrence to leave. I think what Byron had a problem with is that I asked a lot of questions. I was very polite about it.”
Sanderson said councilors pushed Lawrence to move from town police chief to town manager in June 2013, after Lawrence twice served as interim town manager. He described Lawrence as a Lincoln native who often worked beyond the requirements of his job to support the town.
“He never worked like it was just a job,” Sanderson said.
Sanderson’s remarks echoed statements Lawrence made when he announced his resignation July 2. Lawrence said that, beyond his new job in Florida, where he and his wife hope to retire, “constant criticism” from several councilors also motivated him to leave. He declined to identify them.
“It is basically constant criticism, I guess, by some individuals: nitpicking. It is hard to move a town forward when you’re facing that,” Lawrence said. “Some individuals want to operate town government like it was years ago, instead of where it is today.”
Trask served on the council in the mid-1990s and said she was chairperson for about 10 of her 15 years. She defeated incumbent Shaun Drinkwater, 319-304, during last November’s election. Drinkwater served a three-year term after he lost an election bid in 2008.
Trask said many people appear to blame her for Lawrence’s resignation. She sees differences between councilors now and councilors who served when she was chairperson. Trask said she believes her job as a councilor is to question government and that she needed to do so as a way to reacclimate to the council today.
“I found that they [councilors today] don’t ask any questions, and I always have,” Trask said. “I will not put my hand up to vote on something until I know what I am voting on.”
She was also answering to her constituents Trask said.
“I have really taken a hit on this, but I truly believe that he wanted to go,” Trask added. “And I think he used me as an excuse so he would not have to explain himself.”
No one answered the phone at Lawrence’s home Tuesday.
Councilors hope to pick an interim town manager when they meet Monday, Town Council Chairman Steve Clay said.