Appointee process is questioned

TREMONT — Selectmen were taken to task Monday for the selection process they use for appointing members of boards and committee.

Harbor committee members Mel Atherton and Art Paine said they were disappointed that longstanding committee member Mike Ryan had not been reappointed at a Sept. 2 selectmen’s meeting.

Atherton raised the issue during the board’s discussion of the appointment of Jennifer Gott to the recreation board. Although he had no objection to Ms. Gott’s appointment, Atherton wanted to know how selectmen arrived at making a decision.

“What criteria do you use,” Atherton asked. “Do they just fill out a form?”

The question, he said, is relevant in light of the recent harbor committee appointments.

In August, selectmen balked at reappointing four harbor committee members to the four vacant seats. Chairman Kathi Thurston and selectman Dean Wass asked that the matter be tabled because they knew of another person who was interested in serving. All potential candidates should be considered, Wass argued.

On Sept. 2, former harbormaster David Schlaefer was added to the list of candidates, which included Ryan, Jon Crossman, Art Paine and Scott Harper. Four selectmen were present. Chris Eaton voted for the incumbents. Wass and Stewart Murphy voted for Schlaefer, tipping the balance against Ryan. Thurston abstained, saying there had been a business relationship between her son and one of the candidates.

On Monday, Atherton challenged whether Thurston’s abstention was valid and called on her to cast her votes.

Thurston replied that she would stand by her decision to abstain, saying her son has, in the past, worked for David Schlaefer. As a result she has a conflict of interest, Thurston maintained.

Selectmen did not have a ready response to Atherton’s question about what criteria are used in making appointments.

“So my answer is you have your own reasons,” he said.

Atherton said Ryan was an important member of the harbor committee and has done much of the work on the draft for a new harbor ordinance. It made little sense not to reappoint him, he said.

Wass downplayed the importance of Ryan’s role, saying that it’s the input from the committee that’s important, and that “anyone can put it together.”

Paine agreed with Atherton about Ryan’s vital role. Selectmen should have sought input from committee members before making their decision, he said.

“We were completely surprised and shocked that this was afoot,” Paine said.

Thurston called for an end to the discussion.

“I think we’re just going around in circles,” she said.

Atherton and Mr. Paine agreed with selectmen that Schlaefer would be a valuable member of the harbor committee.

“I would just like that decision process to be public,” Atherton said.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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