Tensions flare over comments



BAR HARBOR — Citizen activists accused town councilors of shutting down their free speech rights Tuesday after council chairman Paul Paradis sought a time limit on comments on proposed new public utility rules.

Resident Barbara Fenderson attempted to use the regular public comment period at the beginning of Tuesday’s council meeting to express her displeasure with the council’s recent action on two citizen’s petitions regarding how public utilities are handled. Fenderson, who helped spearhead the petitions, was, however, cut off by Paradis, who stated that with the issue now under litigation, the council had been advised by their attorney not to discuss it.

Paradis’ action sparked a hostile round of comments from Fenderson and other active citizens, who castigated him for stifling debate.

“I’m really troubled that this woman was not allowed to speak,” Dessa Dancy said. “I’m concerned about our town and the silencing of public comment.”

Donna Karlson, who also has been actively involved in petition efforts, read the text of the first amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees the right to free speech. She reminded councilors that they had taken an oath to uphold the constitution and encouraged them to do so.

At the end of the night’s meeting, councilor David Bowden sided with the citizens, expressing his anger over Paradis’ actions.

“Don’t ever let that happen again while I am sitting here, because I will come unglued,” Bowden said. “I think people have a right to talk, and I think people have a right to speak, and I really don’t give a damn what Bernstein, Shur [the town’s law firm] has to say. That was wrong in my book.”

 

Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]
Robert Levin

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