AUBURN – The $15,269 that paid for an 80-page review of police actions was worth every penny, according to City Manager Pat Finnigan.

Finnigan defended paying the bill to the law firm of McCloskey, Mina and Cunniff for its report on police actions surrounding the August 2003 drunken-driving arrest of Mayor Normand Guay.

“Everyone that lives in this community has to have the assurance that when they are pulled over by police, they will be treated fairly,” Finnigan said. The report did that, she said.

“There is no price you can put on the integrity of a department,” Finnigan said.

Guay and Councilors Kelly Matzen, Richard Livingston and Marcel Bilodeau all defended the report and said it was necessary.

Guay was arrested on a charge of operating under the influence of alcohol on Aug. 4, 2003, after a contentious City Council meeting featuring labor negotiations with police. Although he failed a roadside sobriety test, according to police reports, Breathalyzer tests showed his blood alcohol was well below the legal limit. The state attorney general declined to press charges.

Finnigan hired the Portland law firm a week later. Finnigan said she initially expected the fees for their service to be much lower, based on lead attorney Michael Cunniff’s estimate that the job would take 40 hours. In March, Cunniff billed the city for 193.4 hours.

“He discovered, as he began the interviews, that there were many other things he had to follow up on,” Finnigan said. “I did not know what the final bill was until March.”

Cunniff finished the report in November, but Finnigan declined to make it public. The Sun Journal filed a Freedom of Access request and eventually, a lawsuit. The city’s defense against the Sun Journal’s suit cost another $13,803. Finnigan released the report in January, after eight officers had been disciplined.

“The report found many, many things wrong with the department,” Finnigan said. “If it did not find things wrong, we could not have reprimanded those officers.”

The report chastised some officers for their actions before and after Guay was taken into custody but found that police did have cause to arrest the mayor.

But Finnigan said the report was needed to restore faith in the department.

“And $15,000 to make sure our police are well-respected is a small price to pay,” Finnigan said.

Guay said press accounts about the report have not been accurate, and urged his constituents to read it for themselves. The report is available for reading at the city clerk’s office and at the Auburn Public Library.

“I know one thing for sure, and that’s that my arrest was totally contrary to state laws,” Guay said. “The circumstances were totally contrary to the state’s attorney general.”

Matzen also criticized the Sun Journal for first obtaining a copy of the police report and later suing to force the release of the report.

“The newspaper has done a disservice to this community in their quest to prove they have the right to know,” Matzen said. “They’ve lost sight of the right of elected officials not to be harassed and only thought about their own issue, the right to know.”
Mennealy
Guay also leveled criticism at Councilor Bob Mennealy for a letter he wrote to the Sun Journal. The letter was critical of the city’s ethics process. Those criticisms should have been brought to the council first, he said.

“We are elected officials,” Guay said. “This is our venue. If you have something to say, this is where it needs to be said. That way, your council colleagues can ask questions or say what they want to say.”


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