Alna Second Selectman Doug Baston on April 8 defended his take on the first selectman’s election as a school choice revenge “debacle” that exploited a pandemic. Three residents in the board’s first Zoom, or remote, meeting questioned Baston’s statements. He stood by the statements and said he planned to ask private schools to help “break this cycle of vindictiveness” among some voters.
He said he considers voters exploiting a pandemic to be “just a little ways further down the continuum” from “white nationalists or anti-Semites,” which schools would “do something about,” he said.
“We have to stop this,” he said at another point. He said he raised the matter in public comment because he was speaking for himself, not the town.
First Selectman Melissa Spinney was unopposed on the March 20 ballot; she kept her seat with 48 votes, to the 28 write-ins for Leslie T. Fossel. Baston has held the write-ins were revenge for a 2018 change that limited K-8 school choice in town to public schools except for children living in Alna by June 30, 2018.
Baston reiterated the claims he made at town meeting the day after the election.
Responding, Ed Pentaleri said: “It just doesn’t make sense to me for us to be condemning people for their private votes ... If people have an opinion, I think they ought to be able to express that at the ballot box and I think it’s perfectly within their rights to organize amongst themselves to express themselves.”
Baston agreed it was legal and votes are secret, “but I’m talking about an ethical standard. This went beyond the pale,” he said.
Jon Luoma said certain comments of Baston’s were going too far. “Doug, I don’t think you’re doing the town a service by creating what amounts to an enemies list here of people who had concerns and expressed them at the ballot box ... We can disagree about these issues and speak to the private schools, that’s all fine. But you’re creating a division here, especially by comparing people to white nationalists or something like that. That’s over the top.”
“Absolutely,” Pentaleri said. “Well said, Jon.”
“You’re free to disagree, that’s how I feel,” Baston said. “I’m not creating a list. There is no list,” he added.
Wiscasset Newspaper has sought comments from past opponents of the school choice change, about Baston’s comments; and has sought comment from Juniper Hill School founder Anne Stires about a letter Baston said he sent her after the elections.
Also April 8, Spinney said First National Bank has approved Alna for a $567,784 tax anticipation note at 1%.
Spinney later said the board made no decisions on personnel after an executive session. “We’re trying to decide what to do about personnel and hours and who wants to work and not work during this strange time. We’re going to consult with (Maine Municipal Association) about how to handle it,” she said in an email to reporters.
The board meets next at 6 p.m. April 22, likely via Zoom again, Spinney said.