AUBURN — City government critic and local farmer Stanwood "Joe" Gray will finish Eric Samson's term as a city councilor at large, a narrow majority of councilors decided Monday night.
Councilors selected Gray, and City Clerk Roberta Fogg swore him in on the spot. The decision came near the end of Monday's meeting.
Councilor Mike Farrell, who voted against Gray, said he felt that Gray gave the council enough votes to oust City Manager Glenn Aho.
"It's apparent the council is making certain moves now," Farrell said. "I feel truly sorry for this city."
In addition to Farrell, Councilor David Young voted against appointing Gray to fill Samson's vacant spot. Councilor Robert Hayes abstained from voting, protesting that councilors voted without discussing their decision first in executive session.
Councilors Belinda Gerry, Dan Herrick and Ray Berube all voted in favor of Gray's appointment.
Gray was one of five Auburn residents seeking the seat.
Mayor Dick Gleason declared Samson's seat vacant on Sept. 19. It was the third consecutive meeting Samson missed. Samson, a deputy with the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Department, is attending the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro through Dec. 16.
Other candidates included Jason Levesque of 264 Beech Hill Road, Kathryn Begg of 15 Drummond St., Elliot Epstein of 8 Cushman Place, and James Wellehan of 60 Woodlawn Ave.
All five spoke briefly to councilors at a council workshop before Monday's regular meeting and councilors Gerry, Herrick and Berube made it clear that Gray's regular attendance at council meetings gave him the edge.
"I feel the candidate Joe Gray has been to all the meetings, has put a lot of effort into his questions," Herrick said. "He's the only candidate that I know of that has basically studied the budget book. He probably knows more about it from A-Z than most of us other councilors."
Herrick said Gray is a friend and that the two have livestock processed at the same place, but Councilor Farrell said the two actually have an employee-employer relationship. That was one of the reason's Farrell opposed Gray's appointment, and he urged Herrick to abstain from voting.
Councilor Belinda Gerry said she once volunteered at a New Auburn pig roast with Gray.
"So, if I follow the good Farrell's logic, does that mean I have to recuse myself from voting?" Gerry asked.
Farrell said he would have preferred bringing attorney Epstein onto the council for the last handful of meetings.
"He has all that experience and he's a lawyer," Farrell said. "The way this council is going, they're going to need the free legal advice he could have given us."