Document request resisted



BAR HARBOR — Only one of the five members of a Warrant Committee subcommittee have submitted documents requested by town councilors here on Feb. 6, according to Town Manager Cornell Knight.

Members of the 2017 Warrant Committee and its General Government Subcommittee have requested documents from the town to understand why the committee is being targeted. They’re also questioning under what authority the request was made.

Town officials were concerned that documents received during discovery in an active zoning lawsuit could show a breach of ordinances and open meeting laws by members of the subcommittee.

Those documents have since been posted on the town’s website.

The council requested additional documents from Seth Libby, Jake Jagel, Donna Karlson, John Kelly and Jonathan Eno regarding articles 12 and 13, which were land use changes for the ferry terminal property presented to voters at the June 2017 town meeting.

The zoning lawsuit was brought by James Blanchard, Eno and other waterfront property owners. It challenged the legality of article 12, which was approved by voters.

Knight sent the council’s request to the group by email Feb. 7, saying their correspondence was public information. He asked them to provide the documents by Feb. 21.

Response

As of Monday, Libby was the only one who had supplied emails to the town. Knight said he was unsure if there could be any punishment leveled against the members who did not comply.

“[I] don’t know yet,” Knight said. “It is interesting that they’ve all asked for documents which will be produced, but they do not reciprocate.”

Kelly, who told the Islander that the request was ominous and vague, responded by requesting all documents that mentioned him by name from Knight on Feb. 22.

“The purpose of this request is to allow me to establish the basis for the Town Council’s motion and take the appropriate steps to respond, including obtaining legal advice if necessary,” Kelly wrote.

“I’m named as a group that may have subverted open meeting laws,” Kelly told the Islander after reviewing the documents posted on the town’s website. “I don’t see anywhere in there that would reflect the possibility of me doing anything improper.”

He said he plans to respond to Knight’s request by Feb. 28, but was still drafting his response.

Karlson has retained the services of her husband, attorney Arthur Greif. The town’s documents include emails sent from an address the two share. Greif identified himself as the writer of some emails in the collection.

“Were [Knight] to read the Town Charter, the Town Manager would discover that Section C-10(2) gives the Council authority only to investigate appointed officials, and that Section C-10(9)(e) gives it power only to create a Code of Ethics,” Grief wrote in an email to the Islander. “In America one elected body never has the authority to investigate another elected body.”

Knight has argued that the council oversees all committees and can request these documents without a Freedom of Access Act request.

Council update

During the manager’s comments period at the end of the Feb. 20 council meeting, Knight updated the town councilors on the document request.

He referred to notes from an April meeting of petitioners for article 13, claiming they show Karlson, Eno and Jagel “were in attendance and were doing fundraising for the articles.”

Greif argued that Knight had interpreted the meeting minutes wrong.

“Knight incorrectly claimed that three Warrant Committee members were at an April 17, 2017 meeting that was organizing on behalf of Article 13,” Greif said in an email. “Two were present, and the meeting occurred fully 21 days after the Warrant Committee had completed all deliberations on Articles 12 and 13.”

Knight also addressed a 2014 memo from town attorneys which has been frequently cited in debates over Warrant Committee activity. It claims Warrant Committee members are not bound by the same conflict of interest rules as other boards and committees because they only issue recommendations.

“That memo is in regards to a Warrant Committee member speaking at a public hearing,” Knight said. “[Fundraising] is different than speaking at a public hearing.”

Knight also said that Eno, who was not mentioned in the original email to Karlson, Libby, Jagel and Kelly, was sent the same request for documents through his counsel as a party in the lawsuit.

Knight said the town has not heard back from Eno’s lawyer regarding the request.

The documents were posted to the town’s website on Friday. The entire 1,000-plus pages may be downloaded, as may be a smaller packet of 49 pages selected by Knight.

UPDATE: The group of documents has been removed from the town website, after a resident expressed concerns that they contained personal information (email addresses and street addresses).

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd is a University of Maine graduate and a former Bar Harbor reporter for the Mount Desert Islander.
Samuel Shepherd

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