Attorney: Council clear to fill boards, committees


LEWISTON – Appointments to boards and commissions don’t have to wait for Lionel Guay’s successor, according to the city attorney.

Councilors didn’t fill any vacancies to city standing committees or advisory groups Tuesday night, but listened to legal wrangling from City Attorney Martin Eisenstein and mayoral candidate Laurent Gilbert.

Afterward, Gilbert said it was clear some on the City Council didn’t want a new mayor to make any appointments.

“I won’t say who,” he said. “I’ll let you figure that out, but it’s very clear.”

Gilbert and Eisenstein agreed that Council President Renee Bernier should run City Council meetings in the absence of a sitting mayor. That job will be vacant at least until Feb. 27 when voters go to the polls to elect Lionel Guay’s replacement.

They disagreed on whether Bernier or any city councilors should be allowed to name people to groups like the city’s Planning Board, finance committee, advisory groups or the newly created Citizens Commission on Lewiston-Auburn Cooperation.

Eisenstein admits the charter is vague about temporarily filling the mayor’s chair, but says one section gives the city some room. It lets the city read the charter liberally so that “… the city may have all the powers necessary or convenient for the conduct of municipal affairs.”

Other portions say that the council president can’t make appointments, however. Gilbert said that clearly means vacant seats on boards or committees must stay vacant until a new mayor is elected.

Bernier said she was inclined to believe Eisenstein.

“That’s why we hired a professional to keep us on the right path,” Bernier said. “We hired him, and we respect his opinion. So, it’s unfortunate that you disagree with him but he is our expert.”

Guay announced his resignation in November, and candidates began circulating petitions to get on the February ballot. Nominations closed last week, with four getting spots on the ballot: city Councilor Normand Rousseau, Gilbert, School Committee member Leah Poulin and perennial candidate Charles Soule.