Alna selectmen

Alna ethics complaint heads for hearing

Tue, 05/23/2023 - 8:45am

    Alna selectmen on May 18 agreed to hold a hearing on a resident’s complaint that one selectman broke the board’s ethics policy.

    Second Selectman Steve Graham said Ralph Hilton has brought the complaint against First Selectman Ed Pentaleri. “I’ve undertaken to do the necessary investigation and am carrying the ball ... The purpose of this meeting is to allow for further discussion,” he explained to meeting-goers at the town office and over Zoom. 

    Based on the policy’s enforcement provisions, if the board finds what it believes to be a policy breach, “there’ll be a separate hearing,” Graham said. He said the test he was applying was, “if all of the facts in the complaint ... are true ... would any of those facts constitute a violation of the ethics policy ... If the answer to that is yes, then I believe (a) hearing would be required by our policy.”

    Third Selectman Coreysha Stone said, “This is a process that should hold true no matter who it is and what the issue is,” and the board is modeling it in a way that shows the process is safe and respectful, and that shows “if you have a concern about any board member’s conduct, there is a process you can follow ...”

    Hilton told the meeting, “I took this on because I’ve always been active in Alna, always stood up when I saw something that I thought was wrong.” The complaint brings up resident Jeff Spinney’s boat ramp and the land use enforcement against it, and accuses Pentaleri of “allowing his personal opinion (to) affect his actions instead of fulfilling his duty as a selectman, and looking out for the best interest of the town.”

    Pentaleri said his service has shown his character, acting in good governance, with integrity, and going out of his way “not to go looking for divisions that might be exploited.” 

    Pentaleri called the complaint an attempt to force his recusal from the board’s land use enforcement involving Jeff Spinney’s boat ramp. He also called the complaint nearly incoherent, more an indictment of the education system than of him. On the third read, he thought he understood “what they’re getting at,” he said. The complaint fits into a pattern, a campaign by a small number of people unhappy with recent elections’ overwhelming outcomes, Pentaleri said.

    Hilton said he discussed and got information from Spinney and many other people for the complaint, but it is his, “and saying that Jeff is part of this is the wrong thing to say. It’s Ralph Hilton that put this together and filed (it).”

    Hilton asked why Pentaleri was getting to speak. “This is not a place for him to exercise his guilt or innocence,” but rather for the board to decide whether or not to hold a hearing, Hilton said. Graham interpreted the matter differently. “I think he’s entitled to something as opposed to not being able to at least defend himself ...”

    As for Pentaleri’s comment on the complaint’s writing quality, Hilton said he definitely does not have a college education, “but I’m not a (expletive) idiot.”

    The last selectboard, including Pentaleri, passed the ethics policy last September. Pentaleri recalled championing it.

    The hearing on Hilton’s complaint was planned for the board’s next regular meeting, at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 1 at the town office.

    Ahead of the May 18 meeting, a media advisory on it went out to area news outlets from Mark Robinson, who works in public relations and whom Wiscasset Newspaper readers may recall from his communications on the Wawenock block repairs in downtown Wiscasset. Spinney confirmed to Wiscasset Newspaper he hired Robinson at the suggestion of Kristin Collins. She is Spinney’s longtime attorney in the boat ramp matter. Spinney said Collins suggested bringing in Robinson to ensure the public has all the key details surrounding Hilton’s ethics complaint.

    Reached Tuesday morning, May 23, Pentaleri said he had received “a really tremendous outpouring of support from across the community ...” since the May 18 meeting. Hilton had no new comment Tuesday, explaining the complaint mirrors his thoughts.

    Also May 18, Tom Aldrich said the Wiscasset masons’ recent, “wonderful” $500 check for Alna’s food pantry will go a long way toward meeting protein needs the pantry has been having a hard time with of late. And in response to Road Commissioner Jeff Verney’s asking why he had been left out of multiple decisions despite the townspeople having elected him, Stone, who is also a roads committee member, thanked him and asked him to speak to the committee about it. “Then we can ... assess and analyze how things are being sifted and shifted ...,” Stone said.

    Selectmen raised Deputy Town Clerk Lynette Eastman’s hourly pay from $22 to $30 and named Graham the town’s Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) officer.