To the Editor:
The Town Council tried to silence dissent by the Warrant Committee by its “investigation” of that committee.
Bar Harbor’s town charter does not allow one elected body to investigate another. The ethics ordinance mandates that any investigation by an ethics commission (comprised of two Town Council members, three Warrant Committee members and two School Committee members) must remain confidential. An ethics commission gives the parties charged a chance to respond to the claims against them in a dignified, legal forum. Only after charges have been found to be correct, can they be made public.
In direct violation of the charter and the ethics ordinance, the Town Council spent a portion of each of four meetings in February and March falsely and publicly claiming that Warrant Committee members have done something improper. Because of the very narrow limits the council has set on public comment, no Warrant Committee member has been able to respond to these charges at any council meeting.
The council prohibits any public comment on a matter listed on its agenda. Once the council places “Warrant Committee” on its agenda, it silences any chance for any member of the public, even a Warrant Committee member, to speak on the matter. No one can come to the defense of the Warrant Committee for the brief three minutes allowed at the outset of any council meeting if charges against the Warrant Committee are on the council’s agenda, as they have been for much of the last two months. The council, when it addresses the matter, can speak at length without fear of contradiction. Under its curious rules, the council and the town manager have made demonstrably untrue claims about the Warrant Committee. No one has been able to utter a word of correction or disagreement. Were anyone to have tried, she would have been silenced by the council chair under its “no public comment on agenda items” rule.
While the council claims that it might entertain comment on agenda items, it has twice, last year, prevented a Warrant Committee member from speaking up in defense of her committee after the council had demeaned it.
Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” The Town Council has chosen not to let the truth even get its boots on.
In contrast, the Warrant Committee welcomes the truth and welcomes public comment on agenda items. It is mindful of the efforts Ron Beard and Nina St. Germain have made to restore civility to town affairs. The Warrant Committee stays on task and does not disparage the Town Council or other town bodies or town officials. It is an example of representative government at its finest.