Councilor recommends separating city manager and police chief roles

ELLSWORTH — A City Council member used the public comment portion of this month’s council meeting to express concern over a potential conflict of interest, while members of the public continue to seek other means of having their say.

Councilor Steve O’Halloran stood and spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting — as he has done on several occasions prior — to say that having Glenn Moshier hold dual roles as both city manager and police chief presented a clear conflict of interest.

“I feel we have a conflict of interest in having a city manager and a police chief in the same person,” O’Halloran said. “It’s not about the person, it’s about the position. Going through the budget process and watching that, I could see those conflicts there.”

Councilor Marc Blanchette interjected at this point to say that this was a personnel issue and should therefore be brought first before the Personnel Committee.

“It should be an agenda item in that committee so that we aren’t blindsided by anything,” Blanchette said.

“The comments being made now do not reflect any opinion of the council. They are simply a comment being made by a citizen in the comment period,” council Chairman Dale Hamilton explained. “If this is ever going to be taken up it needs to be put on the agenda as such.”

O’Halloran went on to recommend that in a year and a half, at the end of City Manager Moshier’s three-year contract, the city look to divide those two positions. O’Halloran could not be reached for comment by press time to discuss his decision to raise the issue in this manner.

While O’Halloran chose not to add the personnel discussion as an agenda item, he did sponsor two separate items that continued a trend of councilors sponsoring agenda items that have either been requested by a member of the public or allow for a presentation on a specific topic.

The first instance was an item sponsored by Councilor Casey Hanson that provided an opportunity for the organization Green Ellsworth to present a report it had compiled with suggestions that it hoped the city would consider when updating its comprehensive plan. That presentation was given by former council chairman Gary Fortier and state Sen. Nicole Grohoski (D-Hancock County).

The following month, Councilor Gene Lyons added two items to the agenda, a discussion on conflict of interest and a presentation by John Linnehan on the Franklin Street rainbow crosswalk, a project that the city had approved months prior.

During the discussion on conflict of interest, Linnehan stood at the podium the entire time and participated in the conversation between members of the council and the city attorney. Linnehan had previously made several accusations of conflict of interest against various councilors during regular public comment periods.

He also used that time to announce the formation of his coalition on education reform and remind everyone of his candidacy for the position of state representative.

This week, Linnehan again requested that two items be added to the agenda, sponsored by O’Halloran. One item was a direct request by Linnehan to repeal the moratorium on medium and large solar projects, in place since last October.

The second item was a presentation on “agenda 21, agenda 2030 and agenda 2050,” well-documented conspiracy theories that center around various, non-legally binding recommendations made by the United Nations regarding global sustainability. The claims that these plans represent an attempt by the United Nations to establish a “new world order” have been debunked by experts and news outlets since 2014.

O’Halloran stated that he wished to hear this presentation, as it offered perspective on “the other side” of the discussion following Green Ellsworth’s presentation two months prior.

Discussion on these items, which followed a presentation by civil engineer Gillian Williams on potential safety and structural issues at the Branch Lake Dam, lasted 22 minutes. The only action taken by the council was to table the discussion on ending the solar moratorium.

“There is no vetting process,” Chairman Hamilton explained when asked to comment on how the agendas for these meetings are put together. “Items have to be sponsored by a council member or the city manager. If there’s something that somebody from the community wants, it has to be a council member that places it on the agenda. And the charter doesn’t allow the chair or [city] manager to take things off of the agenda that have been put on there by another council member.”

Hamilton said he feels the council has drifted a bit recently with an increasing number of items that are not necessarily relevant to the conduct of city business.

“This is one of those items that, if we move in the direction of having a charter commission, this is something that we would address,” he said.

Zachary Lanning

Zachary Lanning

News reporter Zach Lanning covers news and features in the Ellsworth area. He comes to Ellsworth by way of New Jersey, which he hopes you don't hold against him. Email him at [email protected].

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