Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro accused city councilors of conspiring in a “preconceived plot” with a resident to attack him during a public meeting last week.
The Waterville Morning Sentinel reports that the Republican mayor in a lengthy Facebook post claimed the council knew beforehand of 61-year-old Bob Vear’s plan to criticize Isgro over his recent proclamation declaring Oct. 14 as Columbus Day.
“Friends, this was a preconceived plot hatched by the very members of our council that claim they want to ‘end the divide’ and ‘bring people together,’” Isgro wrote in the post. “Rather than work to do that, and blinded by hatred, they have chosen to attack me because I continue to fight for each and every one of you.”
Isgro abruptly stormed out of a Tuesday council meeting after a heated exchange with Vear. During a public comment period, Vear told Isgro that he was drawing negative attention to Waterville and was “not respectful of the people of Waterville.”
That led to a tense exchange when Vear did not give up the microphone after his allotted three minutes and Isgro told him he was “out of line” before shouting, “This meeting is adjourned.”
But Council Chair Sydney Mayhew, a Republican, and Councilor Jay Coelho, a Democrat, defended the council’s decision to continue the meeting after Isgro’s abrupt departure, telling the Sentinel that only the council has the authority to adjourn a meeting.
Another councilor, Democrat Erik Thomas, told the Sentinel that the meeting continued so that others could speak when Vear finished.
In his Facebook post, Isgro also accused Coelho specifically of having seen Vear’s statement before the meeting started, but Coelho denied that, telling the Sentinel that Vear only informed him that he intended to read a speech during the public comment period.
Coelho told the Sentinel that he can handle being Isgro’s “scapegoat,” but he said that the mayor needs to “start taking responsibility for the fuses he lights and walks away from.”
Earlier this month, Isgro found himself a target of criticism over his Columbus Day proclamation that, quoting President Benjamin Harrison, lauded Christopher Columbus as a “pioneer of progress and enlightenment,” whose arrival in the Americas in 1492 prompted the migration of millions of Europeans, who “brought their art, music, science, medicine, philosophy and religious principles to America.”
Opponents called it a “malevolent erasure of a long and violent history of genocide and abuse of indigenous people,” while supporters likened the move to no longer recognize Columbus Day to the Islamic State group’s destruction of cultural artifacts in Syria.
At the Tuesday council meeting, councilors voted unanimously to align how the city recognizes holidays with the state. That means the city will recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day. In April, Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, signed into law a bill that dropped the state’s recognition of Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day.
That wasn’t the first time in recent years that Isgro has found himself at the center of a controversy. Earlier this year, he drew fire over statements he made falsely linking immigrants to the outbreak of once-eradicated diseases. In 2018, he faced a backlash over a tweet telling a survivor of a mass shooting at a Florida high school who became a vocal supporter of gun control measures to “eat it.”