BAR HARBOR — The town is dropping the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) request it made of five current and former Warrant Committee members, following a unanimous Town Council vote Tuesday. The action comes after only one of the five committee members submitted documents in their responses to the FOAA request.
Councilors said the court action to seek documents from members of the 2017 General Government Subcommittee would have been too time-consuming and costly.
“We’ve got to think of the relative time involved and the relative expense involved,” Councilor Judie Noonan said. “I don’t want to waste any taxpayer dollars on lawsuits, be they frivolous or not.”
Councilors requested documents from John Kelly, Jonathan Eno, Donna Karlson, Jake Jagel and Seth Libby informally on Feb. 7 after emails received in the discovery phase of an ongoing zoning lawsuit raised concerns about possible infractions of state open meeting laws.
The council wanted to see “all documents, emails and correspondence, Facebook, Text Messages, or other Social Media that you have or had in your possession that involve Article 12 or 13 between the dates of February 1, 2017 thru June 30, 2017, to assure that ordinances and open meeting laws are being followed.”
Only Libby submitted documents in response to the initial request, prompting the council to instruct Town Manager Cornell Knight to issue a FOAA request on March 7. All five subcommittee members responded to the FOAA request.
Kelly said in his March 7 response that he does not have any public documents that fit under the request.
William Dale, who represents Jonathan Eno in the Blanchard lawsuit, said in a March 12 letter that Eno did not have any further documents to submit to the FOAA request.
Art Greif, representing Karlson, said on March 13 that documents would be received from Karlson under some conditions. Greif argued that the Warrant Committee issued their final recommendation three weeks prior to the April 17 Friends of Frenchman Bay meeting that Knight had cited as proof that three of the five members of the subcommittee were fundraising for article 13. Greif said the request should be amended to exclude documents from March 28, 2017, when the Warrant Committee’s final recommendations were made, to June 30, the end date of the council’s request.
Town attorney Josh Randlett said in a letter sent to Greif on March 20 that any documents pertaining to the Warrant Committee or article 12 or 13 were public records because they dealt with government business, and the timeframe would not be amended.
Further, Greif asked the town to pay his legal fees of $500 and reimburse Karlson for time spent copying pages. Randlett said the town would not reimburse Grief’s legal fees.
Jagel’s March 14 response echoed his previous response that his duties on the Warrant Committee would be too time-consuming to submit documents.
Libby said on March 14 that he already had responded to the first request and that he had no further documents to submit.
Knight said at the March 20 Town Council meeting that three emails received from Libby mention subcommittee members.
The first message is a list of email addresses sent to Maine House Rep. Brian Hubbell by Anne Marie Quin that features the email addresses of the five subcommittee members.
The other two emails are position papers about the parking meter proposal that mention Libby and Kelly.
Councilor Paul Paradis said the council needed to move on from the requests.
“The documents are out,” he said. “People can form their own opinions.”
Knight said the council has “made the point” with the requests and recommended that the council take no further action.
“I think that perhaps they will be more careful in the future on meeting without notice,” Knight said at the meeting.