July 02, 2020

Councilors react to resignation Houlton members deny holding illegal meetings

HOULTON – Town councilors who this week sought the resignation of Town Manager Allan Bean said Thursday that at no time were clandestine meetings held or secret telephone calls made to discuss the issue beforehand.

Bean resigned Tuesday after being informed last Thursday that a majority of the council was upset with his performance and would support his resignation. A retired U.S. Air Force colonel, he had served as town manager since August 1994.

The town’s charter says that a manager can be removed for just cause, or the council can take a vote of no confidence or otherwise vote to terminate the manager.

Councilors who last week supported Bean’s resignation said Thursday that the resignation option was suggested as a way to avoid embarrassing Bean.

“I preferred to let the town manager resign with dignity,” Councilor Dorothy Donahue said.

She added that she also discussed her concerns with the town’s attorney, but “I never did tell anybody how I was going to vote.”

Councilor Paul Cleary echoed Donahue, saying that councilors wanted to give Bean a quiet way out.

“We wanted to save the guy any embarrassment,” he said. “He did a good job, but there also were some things he did that weren’t good.”

He said that Council Chairman Paul Romanelli at no time polled councilors to get their views, as claimed by Councilor Michael Carpenter.

Rather, he said, it was councilors who called Romanelli to express their concerns about Bean’s continued employment, after a newspaper story came out on Dec. 16 about the town being sued by three former police officers.

“[Romanelli’s] being crucified and he called nobody,” said Cleary.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Carpenter charged that Romanelli had called other councilors to solicit support for Bean’s resignation and once he had a majority, he didn’t call anyone else. He said three councilors, he among them, were not called.

Romanelli on Thursday denied that any illegal activity took place.

He said he received calls from several councilors and saw another one in town. All expressed concern about Bean’s continued employment. Because of that, the chairman spoke to Daniel Nelson, the town’s attorney, to find out what options were open to the council and then conveyed those options individually to councilors who called him.

“I did not initiate this,” he said during a telephone interview. “I didn’t go around and poll other councilors.

“I followed the rules and the advice of the town attorney,” he added. “I would not engage in anything that comes close to illegal activity.”

Councilor Hal Britton said Thursday that since most of the councilors work, “it’s hard to get people pulled together. I don’t see anything wrong with being called.”

Questions remained Thursday as to whether the calls made by councilors to Romanelli and his return calls to them constituted an illegal meeting.

The Maine Municipal Association’s Municipal Officers Handbook states that so-called unintended public meetings could take place, “when board members have conversations on the telephone or by e-mail about board business.”

Asked why he didn’t call a special meeting when he learned that a majority of the council felt that Bean should resign, Romanelli admitted Thursday that he never thought of it.

“I honestly didn’t think of that,” he said. “This information hit me so hard and quick that I just sought the attorney’s advice.”

He added that Nelson never presented calling a meeting as an option.

Romanelli said he had to act quickly on the resignation option because had he not, he was afraid a motion calling for Bean’s resignation would have been made at Tuesday’s meeting.

“That’s what I think was going to happen,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room there.”

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