Brownfield town clerk charged with illegally influencing elderly voter


BRIDGTON – The state Attorney General’s Office has filed a criminal complaint against Brownfield’s town clerk, alleging she attempted to sway the vote of an elderly resident.

Wanda Bartlett, 49, of Brownfield, is charged with the misdemeanor of trying to influence Olive Walker to vote against adopting a land-use ordinance for the town. The incident allegedly took place June 14, 2005.

The ordinance, which would have provided the town more control over growth, failed at a town meeting by four votes, according to Vincent Pestilli, a selectman. The town’s current ordinance is 20 years old and unenforceable, he added.

The Maine Attorney General’s office launched an investigation after receiving a complaint from selectmen last year.

This past March, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin sent a letter to Brownfield’s three selectmen concluding the state would not prosecute Bartlett. But since sending that letter, additional investigation has warranted the filing of the complaint, Robbin said.

The complaint was brought by Maine State Police investigator Charles N. Love.

Robbin would not comment on any new evidence or other details of the case until the matter is heard in court.

Bartlett’s arraignment is scheduled for June 13 at the 9th District Court in Bridgton. The charge against Bartlett is punishable by up to six months in jail, if she is convicted.

The complaint, which is very brief, offered no details about how Bartlett is alleged to have influenced Walker’s vote.

“There is no statute specifically prohibiting an individual from trying to influence a voter from voting in a certain way before handing the ballot over,” Robbin said.

“While a voter is considering marking a ballot in front of them is not the time to influence them,” she said. “The thing about absentee ballots, you are supposed to have the same privacy marking absentee ballots as if you were going to the town hall and stepping into a booth.”

When contacted at Brownfield’s town office Wednesday, Bartlett said she was not aware of the criminal complaint against her. She declined to say more.

Pestilli would not comment specifically on the case, either.

Bartlett, who, according to an article in the Conway Daily Sun, was relieved her her registrar’s position and docked $1,000 in pay, has retained her elected position of tax collector, treasurer and town clerk. She also has announced that she is running for re-election at the June town meeting.

Selectmen, meanwhile, according to the Conway Sun, have come under some heat from residents who have alleged the town officials “harassed” Bartlett. Led by Aliva Day, they have presented a petition signed by 140 residents, calling for a vote to recall all three selectmen on June 13.