PORTLAND — Bar Harbor resident and attorney Arthur Greif has filed an appeal with the Maine Supreme Court seeking a Town Council hearing on his allegations of town councilor misconduct.
In November, Superior Court Justice William Anderson denied the original complaint, in which Greif argued the council improperly conducted a preliminary investigation of a misconduct charge in executive session and should be forced to hold a hearing.
In his decision, Anderson said that such a hearing would only be required if the council itself had taken formal action charging a councilor in writing with conduct constituting grounds for forfeiture of office. He ruled that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal and Greif lacked standing to bring it.
The allegations stem from a meeting Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain said she attended at Councilor Paul Paradis’ home in 2013 with Paradis and former Councilor David Bowden. At issue is whether the councilors “gave orders” to Chamberlain. Under the town charter, the council and its members have authority over town employees only through the town manager.
The town maintains that the discussion in a Jan. 5 executive session was strictly about the council’s legal rights and responsibilities in regards to the complaint. The vote not to proceed was taken in open session.
An illegal executive session would be a violation of the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA). Anderson’s decision included a note saying that alleged violation could be “brought as an independent action.”
Greif seeks a court order that the Town Council hold a hearing, public if the councilor accused of misconduct requests it, to investigate the alleged misconduct. He argues that both the town charter and the FOAA require he be allowed to attend such a hearing.
The requirement “flows from the mandatory nature of who is allowed to attend deliberations concerning the investigation of any complaint against a public official under the FOAA,” Greif wrote.
“If the person bringing the charge against a sitting councilor does not have standing, then the town is arguing that no one could possibly have standing to challenge a decision not to hold a forfeiture hearing … . If only the council can initiate a hearing against one of its members, then the likely collegiality of the council is such that no charge will ever be filed and no hearing will ever be convened.”
Town Attorney Ed Bearor said he saw “no new arguments raised” in the appeal brief, and the town’s reply should be filed soon.