CORINNA — The only thing Gary Dorman is guilty of is caring, according to his family.
This week, Dorman began serving a 30-day sentence at the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor after entering a guilty plea last week on a charge of theft in conjunction with unauthorized use of town funds when he was town manager in Corinna.
With Dorman unable, and perhaps unwilling, to speak for himself, his three brothers, sisters-in-law and his wife gathered in Dorman’s Corinna home Wednesday afternoon to discuss “the rest of the story.”
The family believes that townspeople need more information and that allowing the secrecy about the misuse of funds to continue will only perpetuate and exaggerate what took place.
Dorman resigned in November after descrepancies were found in the town’s books by a town auditor. The matter was investigated by the Maine State Police, and the former town manager pleaded guilty to taking almost $44,000 from the town through unauthorized checks. Dorman paid back $30,000 in a lump sum and will continue to reimburse the town over a two-year period.
The group of seven people expressed frustration with how Dorman was treated and believe he was misled during the past two months as his career as town manager was turned upside down with the accusations of the discrepancies in the town books. His brothers and their wives were outspoken on the issue, while his wife, Cindy, sat quietly, nodding or occasionally speaking in agreement.
“He’s going to live with this the rest of his life,” said Jeff Dorman, one brother. “The townspeople ought to be doing some digging for themselves.
“There’s no money missing,” he said. “Every check but one went through the warrant. Selectmen signed those warrants. Don’t they look at what they sign?”
“Trust goes both ways,” said Brent Dorman, another brother. “There is some fault in this on the part of the selectmen.”
“These people are not strangers,” said Patty Dorman, the town manager’s sister-in-law. “These are people we’ve grown up with, we’ve trusted.”
Promises that the matter could be worked out were made when Gary Dorman was first approached on the “less than adequate bookkeeping” issue last fall, the family claims.
After more than five years as town manager, Dorman’s practice of reimbursing himself for supply purchases and extra hours was being questioned, they said. Dorman received a $30,000 salary for a 40 hour week. He frequently worked 60 and 70 hours, according to the Dorman family.
Selectmen reportedly advised him the whole situation could be worked out. Instead Dorman found himself to be a “sacrificial lamb,” according to his brother, Brent.
“He didn’t believe for a minute he would be going to jail for this,” said Jeff Dorman.
The town’s bookkeeping system was criticized last fall, reportedly by auditor Bruce Fowle, for lacking a receipt policy for town expenditures. Dorman was charged with writing more than $40,000 in checks to himself and to Sam’s Club repeatedly over his five-year term, but lacked documentation to explain each check.
“How can they demand he show receipts for the checks, when they don’t have a receipt policy in place?” asked Jeff Dorman. “You can’t go back five years and tell what each check was for.”
According to the brother, one selectman said Gary deserved the money he paid himself, that he in fact had “earned it.”
The family members emphasized that Dorman was more than a town manager in Corinna. He could be found cleaning the town hall, plowing the sidewalks, working with the public works crew and at the town cemetery. He cared so much for the town that he refused to fight when he found himself accused of a crime, the family said.
“They said he betrayed their trust. Well, he trusted them,” Jeff Dorman said. “We all urged him to fight this. But that’s not Gary. He didn’t want to put the town or his family through a long court fight.”
When the bookkeeping issue first developed, Dorman reportedly was asked to keep things quiet, and he believed that the selectmen and he would handle whatever misunderstandings developed from the audit, according to the family. When the checks were first made public after a subsequent auditor’s report after Dorman’s resignation, board Chairman Steve Buck said that expenditures were always verbally explained and charged against specific accounts for supplies and town departments.
“He was given adequate time to document the checks,” said Buck, when contacted Wednesday. “Instead he resigned. When we asked him if he could present any documentation, he said no.”
Buck also said that despite its lack of a formal receipt policy, the town requires documentation for every transaction that goes through the town office.
“Gary knew that when he was appointed treasurer, and he was assistant treasurer before that,” he said.
The family said Dorman never saw the auditor’s report and was never given an opportunity to address the individual expenditures in question. As for a computer installed in his home at town expense, his brothers said the board was aware of the purchase and knew Dorman regularly did work for the town after hours at home.
“If that’s his computer and he’s repaid the town, why do they still have it?” Brent Dorman asked.
“If anyone looked to see what is on the computer, they would certainly recognize town records,” said Priscilla Dorman, Dorman’s sister-in-law.
She also asked if a comparison of expense costs was ever done from year to year. Certainly if supplies were costing more on a year-to-year basis, a comparison would show that and whether Dorman was taking extra money, she said.
There were no “red flag” overdrafts to call any specific account to the board’s attention, according to Buck. Small overruns were always explained, he said.
Ultimately, with the evidence, Dorman’s resignation and negotiations being turned over to attorneys, “the level of trust we had in him as town manager and our chief executive officer was destroyed beyond a working relationship,” said Buck. That was the same reason given for the board’s acceptance of Dorman’s resignation in November.