Viewpoint: Mistakes come with costs

By Cornell Knight


In Arthur Grief’s letter to the editor in the Dec. 5 edition of the Islander he points out among many things, that the Town Council and Planning Board make mistakes, which are true. But what is also true is that Mr. Greif makes mistakes. Mistakes that cost taxpayers money.

In Murphy v. Town of Bar Harbor a Hancock County Superior Court justice ruled that Mr. Greif had misinterpreted the law and the same for his lawsuit Moody v. Town of Bar Harbor. The town spent thousands of dollars in legal expenses.

In 2016 Mr. Greif personally brought a claim against the town for violation of the Town Charter and Maine’s Freedom of Access Act. Again, a Superior Court justice ruled the Town had correctly interpreted the Town Charter and Maine’s Freedom of Access Act. Not pleased with that decision, Mr. Greif appealed to the Maine Supreme Court. In Greif v. Town of Bar Harbor, the justices unanimously affirmed the lower court’s decision that the Town Council had correctly interpreted the Town Charter and the FOAA. Mr. Grief’s mistakes on that case alone cost Bar Harbor taxpayers $10,000 in legal fees.

Mr. Greif talks so fondly of the Warrant Committee. He should mention that his wife serves on the committee. The competing zoning question for the Ferry Terminal lot in 2017 had a petition committee that included two members of the Warrant Committee, yet they never disclosed that information during review. Members of the Warrant Committee’s General Government Sub-Committee were mentioned in minutes of what appeared to be a strategy meeting to overturn the town’s Article 12. Had Article 12 not been successful it would have prohibited the town from buying the ferry terminal property from MDOT.

When the review of the warrant for Article 12 and 13 came to the General Government Sub-Committee for consideration and recommendation, none of the members disclosed their involvement with the petitioners. The Town Council asked to see documents from the members of that Town Committee regarding that issue. One lawyered up, one did not comply within the time requested, one said he was too busy, one was suing the town over his article’s defeat at the polls so we did not ask him, and one complied (sort of) although we discovered he had written at least one position paper against the town’s article yet he did not disclose that during review. So the Warrant Committee is not perfect.

Mr. Greif’s reference to this newspaper’s editorial (Oct. 31 edition) on the appointment of Councilor Goldthwait implies that the Town Council did not follow the Town Charter. Mr. Greif and the newspaper are both incorrect. The newspaper should have contacted the town before writing the editorial so it could have had the correct information. The councilor vacancy occurs at the effective date of the resignation, so Councilor Noonan had the right and obligation, as a sitting councilor, to vote on her replacement. The Town Council’s action was correct. There was no mistake. The newspaper and Mr. Greif misinterpreted the Charter.

The Town Council, Planning Board, Warrant Committee, this newspaper — and Mr. Greif — do make mistakes sometimes.

Cornell Knight is Bar Harbor’s town manager.

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