Police & Fire

Residents seek to remove Milo official after ‘illicit’ meeting

MILO — A meeting between three of Milo’s elected officials last month that appeared to violate Maine’s public access law has led a group of residents to initiate a process to remove the former chairperson from the Select Board.

The current chairperson of the five-member Milo Select Board, Paula Copeland, released a statement Monday detailing the March 7 meeting between board members Eric Foss, Susan Libby and Donald Banker, who was chair at the time. Stephanie Hurd is also on the board.

After the board met in executive session with the town’s attorney that day, the three members stayed back and met for a half-hour in an “illicit” meeting, where they discussed “many inappropriate things,” said Copeland, who was elected to the board and chosen as its chair on March 11.

The Bangor Daily News obtained a video of the meeting through a records request. In the video, which shows the three board members in the town office lobby, they discuss the town manager’s performance and when to vote against renewing his contract, the police chief’s “whining” and the public works schedule.

Photo courtesy of Robert Canney via FOAA
In a screenshot of a video obtained by the Bangor Daily News through a records request, three Milo Select Board members, Eric Foss (right), Susan Libby (center) and Donald Banker (left), meet in the town office lobby on March 7 following an executive session with the town’s attorney.

They made “derogatory comments” against one former and one current Select Board member, along with a local business owner, Copeland said. And they made “far-reaching allegations of misconduct” against a former manager who is no longer alive, she said.

Copeland said the meeting created distrust between Milo’s elected officials and the public, evidenced by discussions on social media. She said she released the statement for the sake of transparency.

Maine’s public access law requires municipal boards to provide notice that gives people enough time to attend a meeting and that it be open to the public. 

The meeting raised red flags for Carolyn Ball, a retired University of Southern Maine professor who taught courses about local government and is now a Select Board chairperson in Southwest Harbor.

Ball would consider the meeting illegal even if no action was taken because a majority of the board talked about personnel, who should only be evaluated in an executive session where they are given a chance to participate.

“If they adjourned the executive session, that should have been it,” she said. “If three of them stayed and talked, they could say they were just talking about the weather or whatever. But it raises suspicions that it was an improper meeting.”

The Maine Municipal Association’s director of advocacy and communications, Kate Dufour, said she was unable to comment on specific meetings, but she encouraged municipal officials to reach out to the organization’s legal department for advice.

Five residents initiated the recall on April 12, according to Copeland, but no further details were immediately available about where they are in the process.

Milo’s charter requires five residents to circulate a recall petition, which must be signed by at least 10 percent of the town’s voters and include their physical addresses. If the town clerk certifies the petition, a recall election will be scheduled.

The three Select Board members who met informally were made aware of what made their actions wrong and will refrain from such behavior in the future, Copeland said during a March 20 meeting.

Banker did not respond to requests for comment, and Libby declined to comment.

Foss’ attorney, Jeff Russell of law firm Russell Johnson Beaupain, wrote to the Bangor Daily News that “Ms. Copeland’s self-serving statements are inaccurate, ill-informed, untrue, and frankly, defamatory towards Mr. Foss and others working on issues involving the town’s charter.”

Canney declined to comment because some of the conversation at the March 7 meeting was about him, he said.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.