Suit alleges councilor misconduct

Arthur Greif  FILE PHOTO

Arthur Greif

BAR HARBOR — Resident and attorney Arthur J. Greif is challenging a January Town Council decision that his allegation of misconduct by Councilors Paul Paradis and David Bowden did not warrant additional review.

Greif, who had asked the council to hold a hearing on the alleged activity in a Jan. 4 letter, has claimed in a new Hancock County Superior Court lawsuit that the council violated the town charter by failing to hold a public hearing on his complaint.

The town’s response is that the council did nothing wrong in not looking into Greif’s allegations further.

“I am concerned about these potential violations of the charter and believe they need to be fully aired,” Greif told the Islander in an email this week.

The allegations stem from a meeting Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain said she attended at Paradis’ home in 2013 with Paradis and Bowden. At issue is whether the councilors “gave orders” to Chamberlain. Under the town charter, the council and its members only have authority over town employees through the town manager.

The 2013 meeting was in response to Chamberlain’s frustration with “questionable” activities at work by former Town Assessor Marc Perry, according to an email sent from Chamberlain to Town Manager Cornell Knight two years later in 2015. Chamberlain first brought up her concerns about Perry in casual conversation at the Side Street Café, when she and her husband sat with Paradis and Bowden after running into them there, according to the email.

“We sat together and talked about several things. My husband and Paul are friends, so this didn’t seem inappropriate at the time.”

Greif and Donna Mae Karlson, his wife, sent their complaint letter to councilors Gary Friedmann, Burt Barker, Anne Greenlee, Peter St. Germain and Clark Stivers. Those five councilors met with Knight and Town Attorney Ed Bearor in executive session Jan. 4 “to discuss the legal rights and duties of the town” in regard to the complaint.

When they reconvened in open session, they voted 5-0 “that the alleged facts and circumstances contained in the letter do not warrant further review or consideration by the council.”

Greif’s complaint says that in deciding not to pursue the matter and not hold an open hearing where he could question witnesses, the council “necessarily conducted a preliminary investigation” but “failed to create a record” adequate for review by the court.

That executive session did not constitute a hearing or investigation, Bearor wrote in the town’s Feb. 18 response. The council did not “make a decision concerning removal of a member” at that meeting, he said; instead, they determined that the allegations “did not raise a forfeiture of office issue.”

“Nothing in Maine law requires the town of Bar Harbor to create a record of a hearing that did not take place, with respect to a removal from office that did not occur,” Bearor wrote. He also argues that the Superior Court only has review authority “in cases of actual removal from office,” not in cases of failure to remove an official from office.

Neither the letter nor the district court complaint mentions how Greif obtained the email from Chamberlain to Knight. The letter, which included a copy of the email, says “we attach … what we believe to be an accurate copy of a communication” sent by Chamberlain to Knight.

The same email – and others – were circulated to area journalists and some town officials by former Police Chief Nate Young in early January. Young is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against the town.

Bowden and Paradis are both serving terms that expire this year. Neither currently plans to stand for election to another term, each said.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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