PARIS – Twenty-four people have filed a suit against the town, charging discrimination against real estate workers in selectmen’s appointments to boards.

“All named plaintiffs consider themselves either real estate developers or real estate brokers or agents and therefore are directly impacted by the actions of the Paris Board of Selectmen,” their attorney, Dana Hanley of Paris, said in a complaint filed last week in Oxford County Superior Court.

The plaintiffs include Troy Ripley and Al Atkinson, who ran for selectmen this year in a joint campaign, and Planning Board member Jackie Young.

The suit references the July 14 meeting of selectmen, when several people were appointed to boards and committees. Ron Fitts, one of the suit’s plaintiffs, was not reappointed to serve a five-year term as a Planning Board alternate after serving in that capacity since March.

Fitts’ appointment was cited in a lawsuit filed by resident Robert Moorehead in April, charging two selectmen with conflict of interest and a bias toward the building industry in that and other decisions. Moorehead dropped the suit earlier this month after Fitts’ removal and other circumstances made the suit’s complaints moot.

At the July 14 vote, Selectman David Ivey motioned to approve the reappointment, but the motion was not seconded and Fitts’ seat was vacated. Chairman Raymond Glover said he did not believe a developer or broker should be on the Planning Board because it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest.

At the July 28 meeting, Glover said he believed a developer could serve on the Planning Board, citing Rick Micklon’s service in Otisfield prior to his being elected to that town’s Board of Selectmen. However, Glover said he had developed the opinion over 20 years that any appearance of a conflict of interest should be avoided.

The decision to not reappoint Fitts led Atkinson to resign from the Planning Board in August. In his letter of resignation, Atkinson stated, “It is my belief that this type of bias and discrimination against any legitimate profession is unreasonable and contrary to what constitutes a democracy that represents all people.”

Hanley said Tuesday that the board’s actions violated the rights of the plaintiffs under the state and federal constitutions. He accused Glover of using his position as chairman to influence the votes of other board members.

“Our main impetus is to have the town acknowledge that they were unlawfully discriminating,” Hanley said.

The suit seeks to void the vote that led to Fitts’ removal, as well as all votes of the Planning Board since then. It also asks that the town to consider all eligible residents seeking appointment to town board and committees and not exclude real estate developers, brokers, and agents.

Town Manager Sharon Jackson said town attorney Geoffrey Hole will be handling the matter.

Both Hole and Glover wouldn’t comment on Tuesday.


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