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Emails show tensions in Thomaston town government

St. Clair clashed with town manager, selectmen
By Daniel Dunkle | Jun 06, 2019
From left: Thomaston Town Manager Valmore Blastow, Selectman Beverly St. Clair, Chairman Peter Lammert, Selectmen Peter McCrea and Bill Hahn.

Thomaston — Emails between Selectman Beverly St. Clair and the Thomaston town manager and other selectmen show heated words exchanged behind the scenes on issues over the past year, including how the town replaced its EMS director, plans to move town offices to Lura Libby and whether to replace the town attorney.

The Courier-Gazette requested the emails under the Freedom of Access Act and on June 4, the Town Office provided emails between St. Clair and Valmore Blastow and emails from Board of Selectmen Chairman Peter Lammert and Peter McCrea. Selectmen Bill Hahn and St. Clair have not yet provided their email records.

One of the areas of hottest debate shown in the emails concerned the Thomaston board's decision in March to replace longstanding town attorney Paul Gibbons. The vote was taken after St. Clair raised concerns about work Gibbons had done for an information meeting in October leading up to the November referendum vote on moving town offices to Lura Libby. Following an article on VillageSoup about the matter, the Bangor Daily News apparently asked St. Clair for information for an article.

"I read the March 21 8:06 e-mail from you, relating to the BDN questions," St. Clair wrote to Lammert March 30. "Within that correspondence, you indicate that I am a liar three separate times. I consider those comments personal and unwarranted attacks on me. I want to be very clear, that this behavior will not be tolerated, most certainly from the likes of you!!! Let me remind you, that my integrity or credibility is not on the line, yours is."

This was in response to a lengthy email from Lammert detailing how he was at the Town Office talking to Blastow when St. Clair and Hahn arrived at the office to talk about this issue. In the email string, he states that he wanted to know what the questions from the Bangor Daily News reporter were before agreeing to hold a meeting to determine the board's response. Lammert argued with her earlier email stating that he had no desire to call a meeting to deal with the reporter's questions.

"I then said I would not call a meeting of the select board to discuss 'questions' from the Bangor Daily News, first, WITHOUT SEEING THE QUESTIONS beforehand and second, Mr. Gibbons had to be present," Lammert said. "These two items were left out of your statement in your email below. I then wondered why the Bangor Daily News was communicating with you and why you would not show the questions to me. My thinking came to the conclusion that you must have communicated with the Bangor Daily News and that the paper sent 'questions' back to you."

On March 17, Hahn had written an email to St. Clair expressing second thoughts about the attorney decision.

"At our last meeting we had an extended discussion regarding recent legal bills and the use of our Town Attorney, in part because of my frustrations," he said. "However, this certainly deserves a more thoughtful and less emotional discourse. Our attorney has provided commendable counsel on many matters over the years, and is presently leading the effort in fighting the Walmart reevaluation. I am suggesting that we meet with Atty. Gibbons in executive session to review our concerns and matters at hand."

The Thomaston board affirmed April 8 that Gibbons was still the town's attorney.

St. Clair co-owns Thomaston Recycling Inc. with her partner Scott Johnson. Since Feb. 28, she has also served on the board of directors for the Owls Head-South Thomaston-Thomaston Cooperative Transfer Station in Thomaston, replacing prior board member Lammert. Lammert had come under fire about an issue with the new stickers for the transfer station.

St. Clair's company works closely with the transfer station.

In February 2018, she wrote an email to Blastow concerning this transfer station board.

"After the Feb. 1st, 2018, meeting that I attended for the signing of our hauling contract, I just have to ask. What is going on with this board and the constant need to undermine each other? In the couple of years that I have attended these meetings it is unbelievable how divided it has become and for no good 'obvious' reason except for a power struggle. Or maybe a ego issue?"

Among the documents are emails from Scott Johnson that are highly critical of Blastow concerning discussions of who to hire as the new EMS director. Johnson is listed as an alternate on the town personnel committee.

"After witnessing the most disrespectful behavior from our town manager, at last night's meeting, one can only wonder, why the Select Board has not reprimanded, suspended, or down right fired him," Johnson wrote Jan. 15. "When a man that's been in office for twenty six years +/- has to resort to the fact that we couldn't hire a EMS Chief from outside, because they wouldn't know the streets and addresses, only points to a bigger question of what skeletons are being buried in this town? Wake up MEN AND WOMEN ON THE SELECT BOARD."

In another email, St. Clair expressed support for Amy Dyer Drinkwater, saying she had promise for the position.

Johnson wrote another email on the topic Jan. 27, saying he believed what he had seen at a meeting concerning the position could be seen as discrimination. He called for Blastow to step away from this hiring process.

On Jan. 29, St. Clair wrote to Blastow that it was her understanding that an impromptu Q&A meeting was planned with Drinkwater, and said it would be a good idea to invite the Personnel Committee to that meeting.

Lammert expressed concerns Jan. 30.

"If this meeting included select board members and personnel board members and potential candidates for the EMS director's position found out that members of these two boards had already met with a potential candidate, how do you think they would feel? "

The Board of Selectmen confirmed Drinkwater in the position on April 8.

Another heated email exchange shows up in the documents for Nov. 2 with the subject line: "Overstepping authority."

It concerned posting a rebuttal notice on the town web page responding to a flier at Thomaston Grocery.

St. Clair wrote, "I most certainly did not call Lee Ann and give permission to put anything on the website. As I stated in a previous e-mail to you and told you on the phone, I requested a SB meeting to discuss the matter at hand, before anything goes out to the public. Nothing with my name attached has permission to be on the website or mass email or to be posted on the window. I consider this behavior underhanded by Selectman McCrea."

To McCrea she wrote:

"You do not run this town!! The Town of Thomaston Mass E-Mail is not for your personal e-mail correspondence. No one gave you permission to post anything representing the Select Board!! There are 3 active select board members who can legally vote at this time, I am one of them and was completely excluded once again.

"While you do have the same constitutional rights as everyone else to voice your opinions, Right or Wrong. You do not have permission to use the town of Thomaston's mas e-mail to do it. In the process of your endeavor's, you have used a considerate amount of our TOWN attorney's time and I expect you to pay for him out of your own pocket, and will be making a request for Paul Gibbons to bill you for his time addressing this matter along with the 2.5 hour meeting addressing the SMFC misinformation that you singlehandedly dismissed."

By April 2019, tensions were reaching the boiling point.

Blastow read a prepared statement to the Board of Selectmen April 8, complaining about public statements by selectmen concerning rumors of billing problems in the ambulance department.

"I find all the public allegations as unfounded," Blastow said, adding, "The staff and personnel have a right to privacy. It cannot be breached by the Board of Selectpersons. It is wrong to criticize them in public, especially when the statements made about them are false and ruinous of their reputation."

"...While some may think this is permissible, reputable staff have become emotionally disturbed when publicly criticized," he said. "They have lost sleep, become irritable and upset, which is understandable. This type of public accusation of staff cannot happen again in this arena."

St. Clair said at the meeting the statement was obviously addressed to her, and she felt the reprimand should be directed at Lammert instead.

St. Clair wrote an email to Lammert April 11 asking him to call an executive session to discuss "the inappropriate and unacceptable behavior of our town manager regarding the letter he crafted and read as part of his Manager's report and then placed in our mail boxes."

Blastow submitted his resignation letter May 23, saying in it that St. Clair and Johnson had planned since the previous spring to get rid of him as town manager. He said "...The owners of Thomaston Recycling have waged an aggressive assault on my character because of the violations at their business at Butler Road in Thomaston, Maine of which I have failed since 2017 to correct, as I attempt to receive compliance of removing the 6' high pile of junk from the roadway and town property with simple requests through staff.

"I engaged the town attorney on or about Feb. 22, 2019, in regards to the potential violations with concern for the Tort Claim Act," he said. "The CEO (Code Enforcement Officer) verbally notified the owner for correction on Feb. 25, 2019, to have it corrected by April 1, 2019. Ironically, Selectman St. Clair made a motion to consider a new town attorney on March 8, 2019."

In an unusual move for a resigning town manager, Blastow included with his resignation letter documents concerning the dispute between Thomaston Recycling and the Thomaston Code Office, including a Sheriff's Office report in which Johnson claimed he was being harassed by Code Enforcement Officer Bill Wasson. The sheriff's deputy stated in the police report that this did not appear to be harassment, but the code officer trying to ensure a business is in compliance.

St. Clair emailed Lammert May 25, saying: "In consideration of the letter in our mail box yesterday from the town manager. Have you taken steps to secure the town? Are you calling an emergency Select Board meeting?"

Lammert responded, saying he was contacting Gibbons for advice on proper procedure.

He stated that Blastow in his letter wanted an immediate audit.

"I'm not sure what you mean by 'steps to secure the town,'" Lammert said.

Beth A. Birmingham contributed to this report.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jun 06, 2019 15:15

This reads like a soap opera. Grow up and do your jobs. Respect opinions even if you do not concur.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jun 06, 2019 07:49

Time to call Dr. Phil or Jerry Springer ?

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